What to say to a mother with dementia who lives in an ALF and complains that she is lonely?

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she has activities to go to, but claims that she doesn't like many of them. Additionally she is not from this country and is a bit naive to games etc. She loves to dance and converse with people and go to parties where there is happiness in the air. Her ALF has parties and dances on occasion, and activites, but she continually tells me how lonely she is every time we talk or every time I see her. I asked her what she would like to be doing and she says she doesn't know and that she just feels lonely. I think she wants me to be with her all of the time. I visit her at least once weekly if not more and spend time with her, but I work and have a full life and cannot spend more time although I love her dearly. What can I say or do to help her not feel so lonely?

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Top Answer
Are there any organizations or churches in your community who go visit NH and ALF's. ? Sometimes when the know there is an elder needing a friend they will go and visit... could someone in the facility teach her the games? Just one on one? Then she may feel more comfortable being with the others...... is there a language issue? It is very frightening for some elders to move out of their comfort zone, maybe if you went with her a few times to play the games and she met new people or saw that it was fun... she would feel more comfortable going when you aren't there... hope this helps and gives you a few ideas and maybe you can come up with some others.... she sounds like she wants to join in, just fearful.... good luck and let us know if she starts to participate....
Iadee - thank you much for these helpful suggestions :)
My mom is 90 years old and is also in an AFL; she says the same thing. She says the other residents are typically sleeping or watching TV and don't want to talk. I've installed a phone in her room so she can call family when she gets to feeling this way. It helps when she talks to her sister especially.
Ask the ALF to help you. My mother is also in a Retirement Community and they have a social worker who can help with these situations; most places do. Tell the SW your dilemma and she will speak with your mother and make her feel more comfortable about participating.
This is a common complaint made by elders. Is it possible to hire a companion to visit with her a few hours a week? You could talk with the staff at the ALF and see if there are any volunteer opportunities for you mom. This will help her keep busy and help increase her confidence and self- esteem. If your mom belongs to a church you can check and see if there are any volunteer compnaions that might like to visit with your mom once in awhile.
I have been working hard to side step the lonley issue. FIL passed last year and left a very dependent MIL. She doesn't drive, won't bath herself and was never allowed friends. She has 3 sons. 12 grandchildren and 2 great grand kids. All but 2 grandkids can drive and all but 2 (out of state son) are within 30 min. of her home. She lives alone in her home and does pretty well. She never really liked to go out for the 16 years I've known her. I had to cause a family rift in order to get the out of state relatives to call her (which they do now about 2 times a day). I call her as well as visit her almost everyday including bathing. My kids call her (the 2 that don't drive). She hasn't complained about loneliness until I did something very stupid. I told her to call the ones that don't. She has a bundle plan so she pays if she uses it or not (appealed to her thrifty side). She started calling...left messages...no call backs. The rift I caused with the brothers I fear will never be repaired. I have no relationship with the one brother's family that's not calling her back and if the rift ($$ related) didn't simulate them like it did the other brother and the message she leaves doesn't motivate them to at least call... I'm not sure what will. As I read this back I sound crazy.... but this is what I had to do to get a shred of help from these people. I love my MLI and would never endanger her health or welfare. Her mind needs to be stimulated. We work very long hours....the few times my family has together we include my MLI. It's not easy. I wish she had more....it breaks my heart to see how they are to her...and it's my fault for suggesting she call them. I was able to talk her down cause they don't call her back . (FYI I check the caller ID to make sure she doesn't get strange calls and it gives me conversation tidbits when verifying callers. I was also present when she decided to call the extended family so I know what she's going through is real and not part of the dementia) I have to say the calls have really helped her the few months they been coming in I see a marked improvment in such a short time. I think the comfort she is feeling talking on the phone greatly helped her decide to make phone calls. I just wish they called her back....it hurts to know they expect so much from me and do soooo little themselves.
Loneliness is a very common issue with the elderly or shut-in. Your Mom's issue may be language or ethnically related. Is she in a facility that has none or very few people of her own ethnic group or those that speak her language? (Example: A asian-born senior that speaks no or broken English, living in a care facility with mostly white and English speaking residents and staff.) She may feel alien in such an environment, even if they offer activities she would have enjoyed in the past. She may also complain of loneliness because she's - unconsciously or intentionally - trying to guilt you into visiting even more than you do, or to remove her from the care facility and have her live with you. Lastly, she may suffer from dementia and can't remember that she's been visited, has had family and friends call her regularly or has participated in activities.

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