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Background: moved Dad to AL near me this summer after a series of medical problems


I'm glad he's there because I thought he'd get more social time, even though he'd like to be in my house (but I work FT, my husband works FT, our kids are teens…he'd be alone all day, even if I could handle his care)


But I'm beginning to realize that he was totally dependent on my mom for their social life! Admittedly, my mom was super social — the kind of mom who used to embarrass me in the grocery store because she wanted to make friends with everyone on line. She had a lot of extended family, and was very involved in church, and even after she was infirm and unable to leave home she was always on the phone, emailing, or on Facebook (OMG, her and Facebook! But she loved it).


She passed away in 2017 and I know people reached out to my Dad because he told me they did and they told me. But he never reached back out, and those connections faded. Now he's near me in AL and I honestly think he doesn't know how to make friends without Mom doing it for him. So he is very socially dependent on me and my family and it's draining.


I really think he'd be happier if he did make some friends but when I try to broach the topic he gets touchy (understandable — who wants to talk about not being good at making friends?)


I'm thinking of asking the AL to help me with this. Any thoughts?

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Yes, definitely ask the facility for help! Staff may be able to give you insight on other residents that could be a good match for your Dad. They may be able to help with introductions, and seat your Dad next to friendly people at meals or activities.
There are usually a lot of activities going on every day. Maybe you could attend a couple with your father and initiate conversation with others. Get Dad involved in the discussion and help him make friends. Then he can hang out with them.
AL can be a social, friendly place but only for those who seek it out. Your Mom always filled that role and now he needs a nudge. But if he's willing to make friends, these suggestions might help move the process along.
Best of luck to you.
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Reply to swanalaka
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It can't hurt to speak with his case manager at his assisted living facility about how to encourage him to make new friends and participate in the activities they have at his facility. Just remember that it's hard to make deep new friendships, especially when a person is older. But there can be comfort with just having people around, eating in a dining room with others, watching a movie with others around, taking a chair exercise class, etc. Does he like reading? Does he have any hobbies that he can take up? Some people like to do puzzles. Most senior facilities have clubs and committees. Would he find comfort in going to church, speaking with a trusted advisor? It's best not to talk with him about doing things that may be uncomfortable for him. Spend your time with him in a loving, helpful and supportive way to help him adjust to his new life. You also have to understand what your own boundries are for yourself and your family. He's responsible for his own happiness, and there are times in life that will be difficult for all of us, especially in this time of pandemic.
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Reply to NancyIS
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Does he want to make friends? Some people are perfectly happy with their own company and their own interests. Does he like music - he will probably listen all day. Does he like sport - he will probably watch all day. Does he like quizzes or puzzles - he will probably watch those all day. It can be hard to believe but some people do not need others and providing they can do what they enjoy they will be happy on their own all the time. In fact being forced to be with others may be very upsetting to them. You say your mother was the social butterfly - perhaps your father developed ways to cope with this whilst not wanting people around, but finding ways for your mother's sake and need. The fact you think he would be happier making friends does not mean he would be, but I can see a conversation on this not being had is a difficult one to deal with. Somehow you just need to ask or get facility to ask if he would like to make friends or mix with others, and if so work with the facility to get him involved, but don't assume he needs or wants others. I do feel for your difficulty in not being able to get a one off conversation about it, but peace may be what he has longed for and now has. See if he would like a radio (gosh that sounds old but is probably the easiest for him) or a television, or something to read - and his favourite author. Take him some puzzle books (mixed ones are good for a start and soon show which he likes and which he doesn't), maybe provide a tray with an edge for doing jigsaws, or model making. Good luck with being able to get the conversation that enables you to help him enjoy whatever is his choice. xx
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Reply to TaylorUK
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DoingMyBest73: Imho, perhaps the activities director can assist him.
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Reply to Llamalover47
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I was a Power of Attorney to someone for many years. He was an intelligent man but no matter what anyone said or did, he made no attempt to make friends and socialize - with the exception of maybe two or three. He just did not know how or was no interested, who knows. Every human has a certain personality and what they call their basic needs and everyone can try until the cows come home to try to make them do something different - IT JUST WON'T WORK. They may want to do something but for what ever hidden reasons, they can't or won't. Don't try to push him - you will upset him and nothing will change. Perhaps he is just a natural loner. It takes work to maintain friendships and not all have the whatever to do that.
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Reply to Riley2166
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In time he may reach out to others. Sometimes it is hard to strike up a conversation with strangers.

In the AL near me, both the men and women have something to talk about, the residents who have passed.
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Reply to Cover99
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Yes, talk to the activities director. Where I live in an independent living facility, there are a few couples and even fewer men. The married men don't show up much...maybe for meals but not always for that! There is nothing here to appeal to men. The activities director is an ummarried young-ish woman with teen aged children who spends most of her time organizing things and spending time with the women residents. There is every kind of card and domino game imaginable plus Bingo a few times a week.

Perhaps someone (male) could set up a room for wood-working with tools provided for men who do not have their own and provide some easy projects that might interest men. The facility might set up snacks near a giant TV when major sports events are televised. Is there room for a horseshoe court outdoors? Is it possible to arrange some fishing outings nearby? I realize that men are often dependent on their wives for providing socialization and many are not at ease in situations where a lot of "talking" is involved. Even if men are more "introverted", there should be some activities available that can provide pleasant activities for them.
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Cover99 Oct 22, 2021
LOL at the activities director.
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I kind of believe that every person is built with differing needs for "me time" (alone time), "we time" (social interactions), and is either more the "come talk to me" type (more reserved) or the "I'll get the conversation started" type (outgoing). Seems your dad enjoys being with others but is more the reserved type. Usually, these folks enjoy being with others and having friendships but are hesitant to begin the friendship. He might enjoy activities with others that involve making or doing things where people casually talk to each other.
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Reply to Taarna
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Maybe he doesn't WANT the drama of having people around him any more. Maybe it would remind him of your mom and he misses her. Ask him if he LIKES being alone. He might say YES. If so, leave it be. For me, personally, I USED to be gregarious and "make friends" (they weren't really friends, I am realizing, just acquaintances for whom I did more for them than they ever did for me.) Now, I'm retired, right? The ones I knew are dead or gone. With Covid, I am SAFER not being around people at all anyway, and I feel PEACEFUL for the first time in my life... ALONE. No DRAMA. I have enough medical issues that I have a job taking care of myself to stay alive, and I don't need anyone around me. Just to do things like take out the garbage, etc. I even have my groceries delivered to me. I will be 75 in November and, before, I had planned on a reunion birthday party. This year? 2021? I will NOT have a party. Mostly, fear of Covid spreading, and even though I was vaccinated, I could still get it, right? There is a VERY small percentage, but why take the risk? I will NOT be responsible for creating a Covid spreader event. By the way, at this time, patients in AL homes, etc. are not still DROPPING DEAD like flies, but still, it could happen. So, to summarize, 1. Don't worry about your dad taking on drama from other residents by trying to be their friend. 2. Most AL places have VOLUNTARY socialization, not forced, so you can ASK them what they do, but not tell them what to do. 3. I'm sorry for the loss of your mother. It seems like she was the "leader" in the family, and now she is gone.
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Reply to karenchaya
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As a few have said, for introverts we ( yes I am one) do not need friends to be happy. I am 78 and do not have any friends now, even my husband stays in our other home in another state most of the year. Plus, due to Covid I stayed in and tried to not get sick. Have so far not gotten the virus. I am in constant pain and just do not feel like being around people. Even when my children are here the pain I live with keeps me from enjoying my granddaughter. Let him alone, not everyone is a social butterfly.
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Reply to Bhltn2u
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TaylorUK Oct 24, 2021
The average person forgets that a sizeable minority of people are introverts of varying levels. It is also a minority of people who are true extroverts - most are just happy to be in the middle. I cannot speak for any difficulties extroverts find, but like you am an introvert, as is my husband - he will go out one evening a week play a couple of hours table tennis and come home - he doesn't want to be involved with other people more than that and neither of us would ever seek out people to be with. Numbers of people are very stressful to deal with and can be very hard to cope with. We don't seek people out and we do not miss them - either as a couple or individually. Perhaps one day those who enjoy human company will stop trying to change us or impose their normality on us - I do not know if this applies to the authors father, it certainly sounds as though it does, but if people would ask, and then accept it as being as normal as what they like life would be much more pleasant for that at least 10% minority.
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Are there any activities or interest groups at the AL that your father would participate in? Is he able to do things outside the AL? Does he have any hobbies or interests or skills he could put to use?

Sometimes there are community or church-affiliated groups where men might repair or clean up donated items for distribution, Men often do better if there is a project or an activity they can work on in the company of other people rather than just being expected to gather to chat and socialize.
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Reply to RedVanAnnie
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My 92 year old dad has the same problem. My mom passed over a year ago and she was the one coordinating their activities with friends. My dad has dementia and lives in an assisted living facility. He has had a hard time making friends, especially with COVID restrictions in the beginning making it so they all had to eat in their rooms. Now that these restrictions are easing I feel it is time to make more effort to make new friends. I spoke with the activities director about this and asked her help in helping my dad make friends. I would definitely advise you discuss with them and ask them to help him make friends. Especially when new men move into the facility. Slowly my dad has made a couple of friends. But the activities director said that dementia residents have a harder time making friends because it is hard for them to remember people and having had conversations.
Best of luck.
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Reply to Marysd
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I’d suggest that you do 2 things:
- go over for lunch ahead of time and with the ok of dietary to set up an additional place at his lunch table for you. This to see what’s it’s like when he walks into mealtimes. He could be exaggerating.
- talk with the Activities Director to find out what is set up that is more for “the old roosters”. College football game day, guys movie or board / cards nite. If he won’t go on his own, that when you go to visit and you lead him over to the event and leave him there.

If he was a fan of a team or two (college or pro) from his old state / city, buy him a sweatshirt or long sleeve top from that team. It will give a starting point for a conversation.

There probably is / are a couple of the ladies at the AL who are actively vying for his attention. He’s not being ignored or shunned socially if he is at all presentable…..
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Reply to igloo572
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Don’t worry about making friends. Guys tend to bond over doing things together. I realize that he has his limitations but could he be encouraged to watch a football game with the guys, or hang around while people mess in the garden, or do other activities? The possible conversation could come from their current experiences without the stated goal of making friends.
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Reply to vegaslady
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Introverted people don't need (or want) the same amount of social interaction as extroverts, they can be perfectly content to sit on the edge of a group. You say he relies on you for his social life - in what way? Is he calling and begging for attention or are you seeing him as being isolated and therefore feel responsible for including him and arranging his days?
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Reply to cwillie
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gladimhere Oct 29, 2021
Introverts are perfectly happy spending time alone and do not like events. Ask me, I know. And there is nothing wrong with it or me.
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My father was exactly the same way; my mother was large & in charge, so he felt the need to shrink back and blend in with the wallpaper. He passed away first and my mother is still alive at nearly 95, still schmoozing up a storm with everyone in her Memory Care ALF to this day.

Call the social director of your dad's AL and ask him or her to knock on your dad's door to encourage him to socialize; to let him know about the happenings going on and to join in with the others. There are normally men's groups in AL; card games and such that he may want to involve himself with. I know my father finally was coaxed out of hiding in his room to join in some men's programs at his AL and he wound up having a good time. My uncle George is 101 and its the same thing with him; once he hooked up with 'the men' he was fine; until then, he felt overpowered by the women pecking at him for attention in the ALF and stayed to himself....LOL.

Wishing you the best of luck with the whole situation.
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Reply to lealonnie1
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Your profile says Dad suffers from a Dementia. Its not going to be easy for him to make friends. Seems he was an introvert so that is not going to change. "he is very socially dependent on me and my family and it's draining." Are you visiting every day? Because if you are, maybe you shouldn't. You need to give him time to adjust and rely on staff. I would ask if the staff could see that, maybe after a meal, he be taken to the Commom area where he can socialize. There is usually a talker in the crowd that may approach him. If you visit, don't visit in his room. Visit in the garden or Common area. Maybe use one day a week to go out for a meal together. So he has something to look forward to. Ask the activities director if she/he can urge him to join in. This is really part of her job.

Those who suffer with Dementia like familiarity. They like their space small. Sometimes too much going on around them is too much. They get over stimulated. Maybe Dad has always been comfortable with himself. He loved Mom because she was his opposite and he went along with her. He may be a person who does not need friends. A person with Dementia will cling to the people they know. Maybe you should go to some of the activities/entertainment the AL provides. Take Dad so he sees what is going on. My Mom loved when the guy came in and played music from the 40s and 50s. She liked watching other people. She could not play Bingo or do puzzles. She never did either before her Dementia and there was no way she was going to learn after.

I am not as gregarious as your Mom but I am the more social of the two of us. My husband has a hearing problem so is not comfortable around too many people. So if we socialize, its usually with my friends.

You may need to realize that Dad may never "make friends" as you think of friends. I know at 72 I really don't care if I make a new friend. If it happens OK but I am not looking. Even if I was widowed I don't think I would look. Don't expect too much from Dad. Be happy in knowing he is safe and cared for. If he is calling alot, let the calls go to VM. Then pick and chose when u call him back.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Definitely talk to the AL folks. Making friends is always difficult when you move to a new place.

I assume the AL has activities and a director for those activities, so they need to be told to encourage Dad to show up to some of them just to see what's going on. Then he might participate a bit, then he might talk to someone, then suddenly he has a friend. It's a step-by-step process, but yes, the AL people should be the conduit to bring him together with others.

When my mom went to her nursing home (and even on hospital stays, I always sent along a one-page biography with her. That enabled her caregivers to know what Mom was interested in, what kind of person she'd been before she was incapacitated, and even to let them know what her sense of humor was like. I asked that the staff who interacted with her read it, and everyone told me it was extremely helpful to get to know her faster. Consider doing that for Dad and giving it to the activities director and the other staff.
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Reply to MJ1929
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Sandra27 Oct 22, 2021
I love the bio idea! I wish I had done that.
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