Simple movements are all it takes for late dementia paitents to get exercise.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.
Physical exercise is beneficial for seniorsWe know that exercise is important, but sometimes we forget that that applies to seniors too. Getting some form of exercise can increase the quality of life for dementia patients and keep them healthier. One study even found that seniors who exercise pay less in medical bills! Of course, high-impact aerobics or a Muscle Beach strength routine wouldn’t be appropriate for most seniors. But there are plenty of exercises that they can do. Below are some suggestions for those in the earlier stages of dementia. Our next post will offer exercise suggestions for those in later stages. Walking Walking is perhaps the most basic exercise of all. To get started, all you need is your own two feet. It’s easy to design a walking routine to fit what that particular person is capable of: they may take a walk around the neighborhood or simply down the hall and back. Two friends can even go for a walk together to combine physical exercise with socialization benefits. Tai Chi Tai Chi is a slow and graceful form of Chinese martial arts that’s been shown to reduce stress and improve balance and stability. It can be thought of as a form of moving meditation, more gentle and relaxed than yoga. Its movements are perfect for seniors due to the activity’s easy, gentle pace. Swimming Many seniors enjoy swimming, finding it to be a relaxing activity in which movement is less jarring to the joints. If your loved one enjoys the water, this could be the perfect activity for them. Keep in mind that seniors with dementia should be supervised while swimming. Dancing You don’t need to be fast and build up a sweat to be dancing. You can even dance while sitting down! For seniors, swaying back and forth can be beneficial. The music and the fact that dancing is usually done with others adds social and emotional advantages to this activity. Gardening Even if your loved one wasn’t a gardener earlier in life, they can still take up this pastime now. Simple activities like weeding or watering don’t require a green thumb or prize-winning expertise. This activity provides the sensory benefits of the colors, smells, and textures, and also allows seniors to take meaning from the effort involved in making something grow. There’s a certain satisfaction in achieving results, no matter how simple. Seniors should get the same amount of exercise as the rest of us: 30 minutes for five days per week. This may sound like a lot, but keep in mind all 30 minutes don’t need to be done at once. Be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
Photos can help Alzheimer's patients remember loved ones.On your last visit, Mom seemed kind of down so you’re determined to cheer her up today. You open the door to her room. She looks up with a smile that reminds you of the days you’d run home from school with a 100 on your spelling test. She rises and gives you a big hug. “Ella, I am so glad to see you. I was beginning to think you’d forgotten all about me.” She’s showing more enthusiasm than she has in weeks. So why is your stomach in free fall, and your heart pounding to beat the band? It’s because your name is Barbara. Ella is Mom’s older sister who died four years ago. What do you do? You want to keep her spirits up, but you don’t feel it’s right to play along. Mistaking children for siblings or other loved ones is not uncommon in Alzheimer’s patients. Alzheimer’s patients lose short term memory but not their recall of the past. You look after her interests. You make sure everything’s going well. You’re her protector, just like big sister Ella used to be. Seeing you may have caused a cross wire. When Mom recalls her long ago, it’s like she’s living in a dream. Now you’re here but the dream remains. She’s made you a part of it. You want to wake her up, but gently. There are several things you can do. But first and foremost, do not take offense. Think of her misrecognition as a compliment. She’s connecting you with someone she loves. Secondly, do not argue with her. Don’t make her see. Help her see. Listen to her, let her say what she has to say, then try to re-direct her focus. Switch the topic. A change of scenery may help. Suggest going for a walk. Address her by name – Mom. Hearing that one word may be all it takes, but it may not always work. It’s in both of your interests to try to prevent this from happening again. Here’s a suggestion you may want to try. This may even be fun – for both of you. First, gather up all the old photos you have at home. Scour the basement or the attic. What you want is a time line of Mom’s life: as a young mom, with you and all your siblings, and on through all the stages of the family’s life If you’re lucky you can extend it even further back, with photos of Mom when she was a child – with Aunt Ella. This may keep her in the present and if nothing else, will be an emotional bonding experience for you both. Next, gather some present time photos. You, Mom, your siblings, the grandkids, if they visit. That’s all you need. You don’t want to confuse her or you’ll be back where you began. Bring some cute labels. Make it a project. Label each photo, and create a timeline from past to present. This may help to trigger mom’s memory about who you are, by connecting an image of you from the past with what you look like now. Hang the timeline in a prominent place in her room. Finally, you don’t want to go down this path again, so next time you visit, identify yourself – face to face. “Hi Mom! It’s your daughter Barbara.” If mom has a favorite nickname for you, refer to yourself that way. If you can keep her in the present, there’s no need to bring her back.  
dementia decline goes through seven stages

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If you have a loved one who has dementia, what can you expect as the disease progresses? The stages below can give you some idea. Each individual’s experience is a little different, but this outline can give you a sense of what the future holds. Stage One During Stage One, no symptoms are present. Even a doctor would not be able to immediately tell that the person has dementia, and the person themselves doesn’t notice anything wrong. Stage Two Stage Two brings some mild changes in cognition. During this stage, it’s hard to tell whether memory problems are the beginnings of dementia or just changes that take place with normal aging. The person will forget words and names and also lose things. Stage Three Now other people besides the senior begin to notice that there’s a problem. The person will lose valuable objects, forget what they’ve just been told, and start to have trouble at work or in their social life. They may get lost on the way to a familiar place. Stage Four At this point, it’s time for medical attention. The person becomes more and more forgetful, even to the point of forgetting parts of their life story and people they know. More difficult mental math problems are now out of reach, and their ability to concentrate decreases. Their personality also begins to change as they withdraw from others and are moody. Stage Five In Stage Five, others will clearly be able to determine that a person has dementia, and the individual will start to depend on caregivers for help. They’ll forget information that they need from day to day, like the names of family members. The person might dress inappropriately and be confused about what happened when. Stage Six Caregivers and other loved ones will find this stage to be the most challenging. Some patients will have trouble sleeping or will wander. They are also likely to need help using the bathroom or getting dressed. They’ll experience delusions, become anxious and obsessive, and forget even information as important as the name of their spouse. Stage Seven Finally, the senior will need help even with very basic tasks. They’ll have great difficulty speaking and expressing their emotions. They’ll also need assistance almost constantly, to do even simple tasks like eating. Walking may be impossible. It’s not easy to watch a loved one decline, but knowing what to expect can make it a little bit easier. Our articles for caregivers can provide you with ideas for how to make this time happier and more comfortable for your senior, as well as how to best take care of yourself.
Plan for a future with Alzheimer's sooner rather than later.Learning that your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will bring a flood of worries and emotions. You’ll feel shock, grief, fear, and anger. You’ll wonder how you can help them and what changes will take place, both for them and for you. This will be a difficult time. In the midst of this whirlwind, though, know that there are decisions to be made, and it’s better to tackle them now rather than put them off. The earlier you do so, the easier it will be for everyone, and the more chance you have of making sure your loved one is involved in the process. 1. Who will take care of your loved one’s finances and medical decisions when they can no longer act on their own behalf? This is never an easy conversation, but it’s an essential one for all adult children to have with their parents. Hopefully, you’ll be able to discuss this while your parent is still competent enough to make arrangements, and you can get their wishes in writing. An attorney who specializes in elder issues can be a helpful guide, and the Alzheimer’s Association also provides a number of useful resources. 2. Who will care for your loved one? Don’t assume that a particular person, whether it’s your parent’s spouse or your sister who lives five miles from your parent, will be the one to take on the primary caregiving responsibilities. No one wants such a large commitment foisted upon them. Remember that someone with Alzheimer’s eventually will require constant care, and that may not be something that anyone in your family is able to provide. Those closest to the patient should meet to discuss expectations and the feasibility of different possible situations. 3. Where will your loved one call home? Most seniors will want to stay in their own home as long as possible, but at some point it’s likely that this living arrangement will no longer be viable. Think about how easy their current residence will be for them to navigate as the disease progresses and as they continue to age. Consider both having your parent move to be closer to family and choosing an assisted living facility or board and care home. It may seem next to impossible to tackle these big decisions during such an emotional time. But you’ll be glad later that you’ve moved forward on taking charge of the situation. You can’t control the diagnosis, but you can influence how you and your family begin to move ahead.