Exercise For People With Dementia


Elderly woman with dementia exercising at home

Including regular physical activity in a weekly routine is one of the most important things we can do for our health as we get older. Less pain, better moods, and lower risk of many diseases are just some of the health benefits from being active! Of course, you might need assistance and a tailored programme when you live with health conditions which make some poses such as a downward facing dog in yoga a little tricky!


Tailoring your exercise to suit yours or your loved ones condition is not only according to physical needs - this also includes cognitive abilities. According to the The Office for National Statistics, more people every year get diagnosed with cognitive disorders as Alzheimer’s and dementia. It was previously believed that such conditions are common in the elderly population, however research in the care industry shows that the number of younger people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia has increased in the previous years.


Exercise is an excellent, drug free way to improve well-being and reduce challenging behaviours which can sometimes arise in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Exercising is an effective way to reduce risk of falls, and can reduce pain. Staying active improves sleep, strength, flexibility and blood circulation. It is also a great way to boost mood and self-esteem. All these benefits work to reduce and manage challenging behaviours, such as agitation, aggression, and more.


Getting someone with dementia to exercise is not always be easy, especially if they have not exercised regularly in the past. The important thing is to find exercises that are enjoyable, and safe for their ability level!


When introducing your loved ones to exercising, replacing the word “exercise” to something else might help. Find the word which brings happy associations such as - “dance party” or “meeting friends”. Nobody knows better than you, or your Live-in Carer, what makes your loved one happy!


For some, group exercising is the best - often people with dementia struggle to start activities on their own and remember sequences. That way, you or your Carer can show the movements, slow the pace as needed, and provide help when needed.

Being able to mimic your movements and not having the pressure of having to remember what to do makes it a more enjoyable activity. Seeing friends around will motivate, and make exercising fun.


Here are some great exercises you can practice with your loved ones. We grouped them as simple, moderate, and advanced to suit everyones needs:


Simple

  1. Walking is one of the best exercises around! Walking around the house, the garden, or outside for any amount of time is wonderful for body and mind. You could even combine the walk by doing an errand together like walking the dog or going to the grocery store.

  2. The sit to stand exercise strengthens muscles in our essential activities.

  3. Stay balanced in a standing position – improves balance and posture. It can be a standalone exercise or part of an everyday activity like washing dishes. Hold on to support if necessary.

  4. Sit unsupported for a few minutes each day. This exercise strengthens the abdominal and back muscles needed for posture to prevent falls. In some cases it should be done with constant supervision.

  5. Stretching while lying in bed moves various body parts and stretch stiff muscles, this can be done with assistance or independently.


Moderate

  1. Pilates based exercises can be incorporated while caring for someone wheelchair bound or with limitations movement – try simple neck and shoulder stretching, shoulder rotation, arm and leg lifting, and waist twists.

  2. Gardening is a great way of exercising without even noticing it. Something simple like raking or pulling weeds gives a sense of accomplishment and is a great workout!

  3. Basic household chores can be great exercise. Try folding laundry, dusting, or watering plants.


Advanced

  1. Dancing is a fun activity that does not feel like exercise! Play your loved one’s favourite music at home and lead them in a private dance party in the living room. Or, look for social events that include dancing at local community centres.

  2. Class exercise - some gyms or community centres offer classes specifically designed for people with physical and mental disabilities.

  3. Swimming and water exercise is a great gentle way to strength muscles and improve flexibility. Check your local gym as they may have classes specifically designed for people with physical and mental disabilities.


It might take some experimenting to find the types of exercises and their amount that works for your loved ones. Each person’s ability is different. Aim for the amount that helps them feel good, both physically and mentally. And make sure to start slow and build up slowly.


Any amount of exercise is great, no matter how small. Pushing too hard doesn’t help and could cause injuries. For example, some people may enjoy a few 10 minute sessions throughout the day. Others might like to do 30 minutes all at once. And some may need to start with only 2 minutes and slowly build up from there!


Exercise is helpful in many ways for people with dementia, but the top priority is to make sure they stay safe before, during, and after physical activities.


Our safety tips are:

  • Before starting, sheck with the doctor to make sure that exercise is safe for their physical and cognitive conditions.

  • Monitor the level of exertion by checking in with brief conversations. If they can speak without being short of breath, the pace is comfortable. If they can’t hold a conversation because they’re breathing too hard, slow the pace.

  • Keep them hydrated with plenty of water before, during, and after exercising.

  • For outside activities, make sure they’re wearing a medical alert bracelet, personal identification, and/or a GPS tracker in case they get separated from you.

  • If they get dizzy, weak, or experience pain, stop immediately and rest. Talk to their doctor to find out if future exercise will be safe.

Being involved in exercising with your loved ones may seem like yet another thing to pack into your non-stop day as a relative or the family caregiver. We can help you arrange Live-in Care to help your loved one day to day, and be there at night to ensure they are safe and comfortable. Live-in Carers will also help with weekly exercise, many of them have experience in conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's.

To talk to us about Live-in Care, call our team on 01264 319 399 today.