When an older adult has dementia and all of the challenges that it entails, family caregivers need a toolbox full of helpful strategies. Out of all the innovative approaches caregivers can try to help make life as comfortable, safe, and meaningful as possible, there is one remarkably effective strategy that could be forgotten: exercise.
Exercise and dementia may not seem to go hand in hand at first. We know that fitness is essential for all of us, both physically and mentally, and that does not change with a dementia diagnosis. Working out often helps:
- Improve sleep
- Strengthen muscles and increase flexibility, balance, and circulation
- Decrease pain
- Reduce the possibility of falling
- Improve mood and outlook
- And more
On top of that, it is drug-free, so there are no unintended side effects to worry about!
To encourage and motivate a loved one with dementia to engage in exercising, plan to work out together. This way it is possible to model the movements and assist the older adult when necessary – bearing in mind that performing the exercises as independently as possible is an excellent way to build self-esteem and confidence.
Exercises for Early and Mid-Stage Dementia
These more advanced exercises work very well for a person with less cognitive impairment:
- Register (together!) for a workout class at the local YMCA, gym, or senior center. If the person loves being in the pool or may benefit from a low impact workout, try water aerobics.
- Dance! You can dance together at home, register for a dance class, or take the older adult to social events at your neighborhood senior center that include dancing. Bonus: music is extremely helpful in stirring memories for older adults with dementia.
- Work together in the garden – pulling weeds, raking, digging, planting, picking vegetables and flowers. Being out in the fresh air is an excellent mood booster as well, plus the work produces a satisfying sense of purpose.
- Get cleaning! Chores around the house like sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, and even folding laundry are good ways to work out, and accomplishing these tasks together allows for conversations, reminiscing, and a sense of fulfillment when the tasks are done.
- Go for a walk together – at the park, in a shopping mall, or just around the block. Stick to the same route if the senior prefers, or change it up from day to day if more variety is appreciated.
Exercise for Late-Stage Dementia
Adjustments will have to be made as the disease advances, but there are many of opportunities to incorporate exercise into the older adult’s day, such as:
- Sit to stand: From a seated position, with as much support as needed, the individual will rise up to a standing position, pause for a few seconds, and go back to a seated position. Repeat several times.
- Chair stretches: This video offers a number of different stretches that can help strengthen and build muscles throughout the body.
- Bed stretches: For a senior who is bed-bound, moving and bending the arms and legs, either independently or with assistance, can help ease stiff muscles.
If you have a loved one with dementia in Portland, TX or the surrounding areas, get in touch with Anthem Home Care for assistance with implementing an appropriate (physician-approved) workout program, along with the compassionate companionship that makes exercise more enjoyable! Reach us any time at 361-643-2323.