Those in the later stages of dementia may have lost much of their former mobility, but that doesn’t mean that they can no longer exercise, or that it isn’t beneficial to do so. As discussed in an earlier post, dementia patients can slow the progress of the disease by working some activity into their daily routine. We’re not talking jogging and playing volleyball, but rather simply moving and experiencing some physical challenge.
Here are a few exercises that those in the later stages of dementia should be able to complete:
- Encourage your loved one to stand up and move around as much as possible. This will maintain strength in the legs and help with balance.
- Have your loved one lie flat on the bed for up to a half hour. This will give the neck a break and help him or her stretch out.
- Help your loved one sit without support. They should not try this out when they’re alone, as there’s a chance they may fall. This will aid the muscles in the stomach and the back that support posture.
- Your loved one can also stand and balance. If they need to hold onto something for support, they’ll still get some benefit. They can even try this any time they have to stand for a few minutes, such as in the shower.
- Have your loved one sit on one end of the bed, and then scoot to the other end while sitting. This exercise is good practice for getting up from a chair.
In general, encourage as much movement as possible. The key is to push oneself just a bit to help slow decline. Of course, pushing too far will result in your loved one getting hurt, but not moving at all and always staying comfortable isn’t great either. Be sure to observe your loved one carefully for signs that they’re over-exerting themsevles.
When starting an exercise routine like this with your loved one, go slow. Try to just add one thing each day, rather than dramatically changing their routine. Just like younger exercisers, trying too much at once will just lead to an injury or dropping the whole thing. The most sustainable change is gradual, and this is all the more true for dementia patients, who get anxious with change.
Also remember that completing exercises perfectly is not the goal: simply moving is. Be encouraging even if your loved one is having trouble. It may be that what they can’t do today, they’ll be able to do tomorrow.
As always, speak to your loved one’s doctor about how much movement they can handle.