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The Benefits of Exercise for Seniors with Dementia

When someone you love is diagnosed with dementia, it’s natural to want to explore all of the available treatment options. You may know that exercise is beneficial no matter your age, but did you know it can have unique benefits for seniors with dementia, too?

Exercise is a natural way to reduce challenging behaviors in those with dementia. Incorporating gentle exercise into the life of a loved one with dementia can reduce pain, improve sleep, strength, and flexibility, reduce fall risk, and boost self-esteem. All these benefits work together to reduce sundowning, agitation, and sleeplessness. But how can you encourage someone with dementia to exercise? Here are some of our best tips:

  • If a loved one is resistant to exercising, it may be helpful to present it the way you would any other daily activity, or piquing a loved one’s interest by calling it a “dance party.”
  • Remember that some older adults with dementia will have difficulty repeating movements or remembering sequences. Try exercising together so the loved one can imitate your movements.
  • Start slow and repeat yourself as needed. Remember to be patient and adjust the steps or motions as necessary.

Safety should be a top priority no matter what kind of exercise you’re doing. Always check with the senior’s doctor before adding or changing an exercise routine, and monitor your loved one’s comfort level while exercising. If he or she can speak comfortably, it’s safe to continue. If your loved one has trouble speaking or breathing, take a rest or slow things down. Encourage hydration before, during, and after exercise, and take breaks as needed.

Here are some of the simplest and most effective dementia exercises for seniors:

  • Walking. This simple exercise has big benefits for both physical and mental health. Additionally, it can be done indoors or outdoors and provides the opportunity for a change of scenery.
  • Balancing in a standing position or sitting unaided. Both of these exercises can be done for just a few minutes at a time, and are well suited to seniors who are not very active or agile. These exercises help strengthen essential muscles.
  • Stretching in bed. Similarly, stretching in bed is a low-impact way to prevent muscle atrophy and encourage regular movement.
  • Tai chi. Appropriate for more active seniors, this gentle martial art is wonderful for older adults with dementia, or those with a variety of health conditions. It encourages slow, fluid movements to improve balance.
  • This form of exercise feels like play, and it comes with a well-earned sense of accomplishment after flower beds are weeded or vegetables are planted.
  • Household chores. Don’t discount chores as a great form of exercise! Vacuuming, folding laundry, or washing the car all provide a workout, and a sense of accomplishment.
  • A dance party is one of the best ways to encourage a senior with dementia to exercise. Simply put on some favorite tunes and boogie away!
  • Exercise classes. Special group exercise classes tailored to seniors not only improve fitness levels, but also help get the senior out of the house and interacting with others.

If you’re interested in learning more dementia care tips, or partnering with an in-home caregiver who can lead a senior in your life through enriching exercises and engaging activities, reach out to Jewish Family Home Care any time at 954-908-5677  to learn more about why we’re the top provider of dementia and home care in Sunrise, FL and nearby areas.