Why Staying Active is So Important After a Dementia or Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

DR Seuss DayAfter a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis, when memories begin to slip away and confusion becomes a regular visitor, it’s understandable that many family members and caregivers might be hesitant to encourage their loved one to stay active. However, now it’s more important than ever for a loved one to stay active, engaged, and connected.

How to Plan Activities for Someone with Dementia

The word “activity,” may be a bit of a misnomer. You don’t need to put your loved one through a rigorous workout or take them to an amusement park to make sure they “get out.” An activity simply means making a connection and helping your family member engage. The activity can be as simple as sitting on the porch with your loved one and drinking coffee while you share memories or play easy word association game s.

It may mean going to the park and watching others run and play and throw Frisbees. Even lunch at the diner down the road can help a dementia patient see new sights, speak with different people, and have a fun experience.

Of course, it’s important not to overstimulate someone with dementia or to pull them out of their comfort zone. Individuals with dementia benefit from routine. They enjoy having meals at the same time each day, and having activities at set times. {Just a note, the news often will agitate a Resident, they will worry about things like a storm or a violent headline because they can’t orient/recognize that it is not going to directly affect them or someone close to them.} When you plan activities, try to incorporate them as a regular part of your loved one’s schedule.

For instance, at Sunshine Care, we like to plan a light exercise routine or prayer/meditation period every day at 10 a.m. right after breakfast. Afterwards, is another activity hour, which might be spent doing crafts or taking a nature walk. We offer similar activity periods throughout the day, including our new OWLS program (Older, Wiser, Learners Society), which provides our residents with opportunities to share stories, try new projects, and engage in important mental stimulation.


Why Activities Are So Important

Every one of us need stimulation in our lives, and older adults are no different, even if they have dementia. Human connection allows us to stay engaged with life and to enjoy new experiences. Though your loved one may not be able to do everything he/she once was capable of, there are still many opportunities to grow, learn, and connect.

Exercise is important at every age, but especially for seniors who want to retain mobility, strength, and bone density. Take walks with your loved one, especially if the weather is nice. At Sunshine Care, we encourage easy nature walks and offer chair exercise classes.

Mental stimulation is also crucial so that your loved one doesn’t grow bored or begin to withdraw. Provide your loved one with fun crafts to do, simple puzzles like word searches and large size, 25-100 piece jigsaws, or simply sing familiar songs together. Our OWLS program has so far been a big success with our residents in early stage dementia.

Finally, encourage human connection. Invite other family members to visit your loved one or take them to quiet, peaceful areas where they can people watch. At Sunshine Care, we are proud of our intergenerational program, which brings different groups of children to our facility where they and our residents learn from each other. Whether we have Girl Scouts helping our residents make cookies or Boy Scouts assisting with crafts, or high schoolers teaching them to ball room dance, the experience is fulfilling for everyone involved.

We also like to tie-in holidays. For example, we recently celebrated an Oktoberfest at our facility and are planning a Halloween celebration toward the end of the month.

How to Know if Your Loved One is Active Enough

If you worry that your loved one might not be active enough during the day, study their sleeping patterns. Do they have trouble falling asleep at night? This may indicate that they have pent up energy that they didn’t use during the day. Usually, a senior who has enjoyed appropriate stimulation during the day won’t have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

To learn more about the activities that Sunshine Care offers, take a look at our daily activities calendar.


Categories: Memory Care

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