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Keeping Persons with Dementia Engaged & Healthy

Did you know?

A study found that regular exercise, along with behavior management, led to improved physical functioning and decreased depression for people with Alzheimer's disease.

In addition to maintaining healthy hygiene and nutrition, it is important that your loved one remain as active as possible, even as his or her dementia progresses. Daily activity and exercise are important for physical health, helping him or her to sleep better and to remain mobile. Such activity is also important to staying mentally healthy as well and plays an important role in helping individuals to relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. Perhaps most important, exercise and activity provides time for meaningful interactions for your loved one doing something they can enjoy.

Suggestions for Caregivers

The following are a few suggestions of simple activities that you and your loved one can enjoy together:

  • Walking around a neighborhood, park, or indoor mall in inclement weather
  • Helping with chores around the house or in the yard, such as folding clothes or weeding
  • Participating in gym activities, such as swimming, lifting light weights, or aerobics

Work with their interests: Does your loved one have a particular activity or sport that they enjoy, for instance working in the garden or swimming laps in the pool? Try to pursue these interests as best you can as they will likely be more interested in staying active with these sorts of activities. As their dementia progresses, try finding ways that they can participate in activities that they enjoy, even if they can’t participate as fully as before. For instance, if your loved one enjoys dancing, try simpler steps where he or she can follow you or at least take him or her to view dances.

Work with their schedule: Your loved one may be more able to engage in activities at particular times of day. Most caregivers find it helpful to attempt exercise and activities when their loved one is most energetic and alert, whether this be early in the morning or in the afternoon. If you find that your loved one is reluctant to participate, try pairing positive events with activities, such as going for a walk before dinner or meeting a friend in the mall. Start first with smaller goals such as a walk around the yard and work up to larger, more strenuous activities, such as a walk around the neighborhood. Also, pay attention to your loved one to make sure that you are moving at a pace that is comfortable for him or her.

Guard their safety and health: If your loved one will be active outside, be sure that he or she wears a medicalert bracelet that contains information on medical conditions or allergies. In addition, take care that he or she will be protected from the sun, with sunglasses, long clothing, or sunblock. Finally, make sure that your loved one is staying well-hydrated and that is not overexerting his or her self.

Late Stages of Dementia

Even in late stages of dementia, your loved one may enjoy being moved outside to enjoy nature. Be careful to avoid bright sunlight and protect him or her from insects. He or she may also enjoy smelling a favorite scent or food or listening to soothing music or music from their youth. Your loved one may still enjoy nonverbally reminiscing over old familiar photographs or other items from his or her past.

 

Resources

101 Things to Do With a Person With Alzheimer's Disease

Source: ElderCare Online's Alzheimer's & Dementia Care Channel
Description: This web page simply lists 101 ideas of things to do with a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease.

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Activities & Crafts for People with Dementia

Source: ElderCare Online's Alzheimer's & Dementia Care Channel
Description: This web page lists several interpersonal activities to share with a loved one who has dementia, and also provides links to other resources with activity ideas.

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Alzheimer's Therapeutic Activities

Source: Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation
Description: This web page describes how therapeutic activities help manage the symptoms of Alzheimer's and discusses generally the kinds of activities that are best.

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10 Exercises for People with Dementia and Their Caregivers

Source: Alzheimer Europe
Description: This website offers 10 simple exercises that caregivers can perform with their loved ones from a seated position.

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Recreational Together Time

Source: PBS – The Forgetting
Description: This section of the website provides activity ideas and suggestions for keeping your loved one active in way that fosters together time.

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Don't Forget to Exercise to Improve Memory

Source: The Bridge Online: University of Colorado at Denver and Health Science Center
Description: This article describes the results of an 18 month study comparing the effects of exercise on improvement of memory.

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Alzheimer's Disease and Exercise

Source: Better Health Channel (Australia)
Description: This webpage discusses the benefits of exercise for individuals with dementia and goes on to suggest forms of exercise, as well as a suggested workout.

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