4 Tips To Stay Physically Active With Dementia

Judith Thomas  |  December 15, 2015
4 Tips To Help Your Loved One With Alzheimer's Stay Physically Active

Exercising regularly is one of the most effective ways to maintain both mental and physical health. Working out can drastically reduce people's risk of serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes. However, when individuals are affected by dementia, staying active can become increasingly difficult. 

Symptoms of dementia, such as increased anxiety and low self-esteem, can reduce the desire to get outside and exercise. People with dementia can, however, find ways to be active, whether this means overcoming these side effects with the proper support or finding alternative ways to keep fit, such as exercising at home. The Alzheimer's Society says that in addition to the physical benefits of physical activity, people often see improvements in mood, confidence, sleep quality and even cognitive function, which can ease symptoms of dementia.

If you're worried about your loved one's health due to his physical inactivity, use these tips as a guide to help your family member maintain an active lifestyle.

1. Talk about it
Talking with your relative about what type of exercise they're interested in is a simple task that can go a long way. This also presents you with the opportunity to explore the reasons behind any reluctance to become more active. Once you've pinpointed the problem, you can focus on suggesting activities that your family member will be more likely to want to engage in.

According to the NHS, it's important to have this conversation so that your loved one knows they are being heard and that you understand their symptoms may be making physical activity difficult. Work together to find exercises that work and do them together to provide support. 

Talk to your loved one before encouraging physical activity to get a better idea of what they're comfortable with.Talk to your loved one before encouraging physical activity.

2. Start slow
Exercising regularly doesn't have to involve going on a lengthy walk or doing a workout. You can ease your loved one into an exercise routine by incorporating activities they enjoy. For example, gardening will get your relative outside and work muscles that would have remained inactive if they were sitting. If they enjoy cooking, encourage them to plant some of their own herbs and vegetables.

The Alzheimer's Society recommends establishing a sense of normality by exercising using simple chores like dusting and sweeping. During the later stages of dementia when mobility is decreased, even walking around the house can have major benefits for your loved one's health. 

"Music can make physical activity more appealing."

3. Be creative
Sometimes a little push is all it takes to get your loved one motivated and energised. Being creative with music is an easy way to make physical activity more appealing. Even if you're staying indoors and engaging in simple activities, playing music that your relative knows and can sing along to can turn a boring task into an exciting one. Have the whole family get involved, such as the grandchildren, to make sure they feel supported. You can help to make sure they don't feel overwhelmed by the experience by playing music at a low volume and inviting only close family members who your loved one is very comfortable with. Never have too many people over at once, either.

4. Encourage socialisation
The social aspect of exercise can help to increase self-esteem and reduce anxiety. If your family member is up to it, accompany them to a local community centre where you can both participate in group exercise programmes. Social exercise is often best for people in the early stages of dementia. Even if your relative doesn't want to join a class or programme, working out individually where there are other people their age exercising can be motivating and reduce any feelings of isolation they may have.

At Gracewell care homes, we offer exercise programmes for residents with dementia to ensure they are maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Professional carers are also there to provide full-time assistance when needed. To learn more about how we can help, contact us today.