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The onset of dementia symtoms can be followed by changes to social connections and friendships. For example, symptoms that change a person's vision and perception, may mean they stop engaging in group sporting activities. Alternatively, symptoms that alter speech and language abilities may impact on a person's ability to communicate with friends. For both those living with dementia and their friends, it may take some time to adjust to changes in the activities or routines of the friendship. While there may be changes it can be helpful to focus on what activities are possible and enjoyable, and find new routines and activities.

People tells us that changes to friendships, and even the loss of friendships, can be a common experience in the post diagnostic period. This is in part because there is limited public knowledge about rarer dementias. Because less is known about these forms of dementia this may impact how friends communicate with each other about the changes. A person who is newly diagnosed may feel reluctant to attend social gatherings or may be unsure about how to tell others about their condition. Friends and social connections may not always know how to react, how to understand what is happening, or how to help.

Maintaining friendships is absolutely possible and can be an important part of living better, living well.

Tips to help maintain relationships:

  • Be patient. It may take time to adjust to new friendship routines.
  • If you are a friend of someone with a new dementia diagnosis, ask them what changes to social activities might be needed and what might they enjoy doing together. Be open to changes.
  • If you are a friend to someone with a diagnosis, learn more about the rare dementia. Learning more on your own is an excellent way to help your friend. You can attend one of the RDS Canada diagnosis specific support groups to find out more about the diagnosis itself and how to be a supportive friend.
  • Pay attention to pace. The pace of activities may need to change, the person with dementia diagnosis is the best person to set the pace amongst friends.
  • Focus on what is possible and enjoyable and not on the limitations.
  • Be open and honest with feelings. It may be helpful to both acknowledge the losses that are taking place and discuss them as friends.
  • Leisure activities can be supportive of friendships and friendships can help to be a bridge in maintaining leisure activities.
  • If your friend is a family member of someone living with dementia, understand that they may need to shorten their social outings or do things closer to home.

A key point to remember is that there is a reciprocal relationship between leisure activities and friendship, they support one another! Finding fun and enjoyable activities to do with friends can be so important.


Review the tips above and consider what approaches may be best for both you and your friend. Consider asking your friend what activities are best suited to your time together, you may ask what you could do to help maintain the activities that you have done in the past.

Take your friends lead, and work on maintaining open and honest communication, these can be key points to providing help as a friend.

A rare or young onset dementia diagnosis brings with it psychological, biological and interpersonal challenges and needs. Commonly people living with a  dementia may experience low mood, sleep disturbances, anxiety, changes to speech, changes to sight and perception and changes to personality or behaviour.

All these changes have the potential to impact social interactions with others. It is possible that not all friends may understand the experiences of those affected by a rare or young onset dementia diagnosis.