When a loved one has dementia and all of the obstacles that it comes with, family care providers need a toolbox filled with helpful techniques. Of all the creative strategies caregivers can use to help make life as safe, comfortable, and meaningful as possible, there is one extremely effective strategy that may be ignored: exercise.
Of course, we know that exercise is important for all of us, providing both physical and mental benefits, and that doesn’t change with a dementia diagnosis. Working out often helps:
- Improve sleep
- Strengthen muscles, flexibility, balance, and circulation
- Reduce pain
- Lower the risk of falling
- Improve state of mind and outlook
- And much more
Best of all, it’s drug-free, so there are no unwanted side effects to be concerned about!
To encourage and motivate a loved one with dementia to take part in exercising, plan to work out together. That way you can model the movements and help the individual when necessary – bearing in mind that performing the exercises independently as much as possible is a great way to build self-esteem and confidence.
Exercises for Early and Mid-Stage Dementia
These more advanced exercises work nicely for someone with minimal cognitive impairment:
- Sign up (together!) for an exercise class at the local YMCA, gym, or senior center. If the person enjoys being in the pool or may benefit from a low impact workout, try water aerobics.
- Dance! You can dance together at home, sign up for a dance class, or take the older adult to social events at the local senior center that include dancing. Bonus: music is amazingly helpful in rousing memories for seniors with dementia.
- Work side by side in the garden – pulling weeds, raking, digging, planting, picking vegetables and flowers. Getting out in the fresh air is a great mood booster as well, and the work provides a satisfying sense of purpose.
- Clean up! Chores around the house like dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, and even doing laundry are good ways to work in exercise, and doing these jobs together allows for conversations, reminiscing, and a feeling of fulfillment when the tasks are done.
- Go for a walk together – around the block, at the local park, in a shopping mall. Stick to the same route if the senior prefers, or change it up from day to day if more variety is welcomed.
Exercises for Late-Stage Dementia
Modifications will have to be made as the disease progresses, but there are still a lot of opportunities to incorporate physical activity into the senior’s day, including:
- Sit to stand: From a seated position, with as much help as needed, the older adult will rise up to a standing position, pause for several seconds, and return to a seated position. Repeat several times.
- Chair stretches: This video offers a variety of stretches you can try that will help strengthen and build muscles throughout the body.
- Bed stretches: For a loved one who is bed-bound, moving and bending the legs and arms, either independently or with assistance, can help relieve stiff muscles.
Get in touch with At-Home Care Company, a leading Des Moines dementia care provider, for assistance with implementing the ideal (doctor-approved) exercise program for someone with dementia, along with the compassionate companionship that makes exercise more pleasurable! Reach us any time at 515-292-2650. Please visit our Service Area page for a full list of the communities we serve.