Exercise is essential at every stage in life. While the amount and type of fitness activities you engage in might need to be modified as you grow older, exercising has many benefits. Those include helping people maintain a healthy weight, reducing anxiety, promoting better quality sleep, and boosting mood.
If you or a loved one has dementia, exercise also offers additional benefits for the body and mind. Early- to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease, for example, often causes low energy, problems with coordination, balance issues, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Regular exercise helps combat the negative impact of each.
The Therapeutic Value of Exercise
According to WebMD, “repetitive exercises such as walking, indoor bicycling, and even tasks such as folding laundry may lower anxiety in people with the disease because they don’t have to make decisions or remember what to do next. They also can feel good knowing that they’ve accomplished something when they’re finished.”
Research from the Wake Forest School of Medicine highlights even more benefits. They found that physical activity also has a positive impact on the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Those enrolled in the trial had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment or diabetes, which is thought to raise the risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Some participants worked out at community gyms for an hour of aerobic activity or stretching exercise four times a week for six months. All were supervised during these activities.
At the end of the study, researchers had determined that “exercisers had better blood flow in the memory and processing centers of their brains and had measurable improvement in attention, planning, and organizing abilities referred to as executive function.”
If you are the family caregiver or adult child of a senior with dementia, you might be wondering what type of exercises are best. We have a few suggestions for you to review with your loved one’s primary care physician.
4 Safe Exercises for Adults with Dementia
- Walking: Walking 30 minutes a day is good for most adults with dementia. Finding a safe and scenic place where you can walk together can give you both a mental and physical boost. If 30 minutes is too much to start, break it up into several mini-sessions a day instead. You might feel safer if you purchase a GPS tracking device for your loved one to wear when you are walking outdoors.
- Practicing chair yoga: The combination of stretching and breathing exercises at the core of yoga is great for improving flexibility, coordination, balance, and relaxation. For adults with dementia, chair yoga might be an option. Through a series of yoga poses performed from a seated position, participants can feel successful while also reaping the health benefits of yoga. It’s also been proven to improve balance for people with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Pedaling on a recumbent bike: Simple, repetitive movements are ideal for people living with memory impairment. A recumbent bike is usually safest. In addition to the ease of the motion, riding a bike gets the heart pumping and muscles working.
- Weights or resistance bands: Weight training helps keep muscles strong and joints limber. It also combats bone loss as you grow older. Lifting weights and using resistance bands are two ways people with dementia can do that. People with dementia should lift weights only under supervision.
Specialized Dementia Care at Heritage
At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand the value of exercise for residents in independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Our communities offer daily fitness opportunities ranging from stretching classes to bocce ball. For more information on specialized dementia care, please call the Heritage community nearest you today!
As we close the book on the tumultuous year that was 2020, many people continue to experience a great deal of stress. While the COVID-19 pandemic persists, there are a variety of reasons to feel anxious. Uncertainty about a vaccine, worries about exposure, and isolation are among the most common.
Because chronic stress is linked to health issues ranging from headaches and weight gain to diabetes and heart disease, it’s important to learn healthy ways to navigate tough times. When you don’t have positive ways of coping, unhealthy behaviors are more likely to develop.
Many people find regular journaling eases stress. It can be a productive way to sort out your feelings, focus on your blessings, and keep grounded. In fact, University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker believes regular journaling may even improve your health.
Journaling your feelings and fears helps you find solutions and peace. It can strengthen your immune system, increasing your odds of fighting off infections and staying healthy.
How and Why You Should Journal
One study highlighted the importance of journaling about what is really getting you down. Researchers found that 47% of patients with a chronic health condition experienced improvement in their physical and emotional well-being after writing honestly about what was impacting their lives. In contrast, people who journaled solely about everyday activities only had a 24% improvement. The bottom line was writing about what really hurts is difficult but meaningful.
If you’ve never tried journaling before, here’s some advice for getting started:
- Your journal doesn’t have to be expensive or particularly beautiful. While something nice to write in might entice you to journal more, even a spiral notebook will work.
- Journal at least four times a week to document your fears and hopes. Twenty to thirty minutes at a time is optimal for many people.
- Write without stopping; don’t worry about spelling and grammar. Just keep going.
- Write this for your eyes only. You’ll be more inclined to be open and honest if you don’t worry about what others might think.
- If writing about something makes you too upset, stop. Take a break and try again another day.
The Therapeutic Value of Journaling When You are a Caregiver offers more tips on journaling for better health. While written for family caregivers, much of the advice can be applied to anyone.
Heritage Responds to the COVID-19 Pandemic
At Heritage Senior Communities, we understand how fearful people are of being exposed to the coronavirus. Older adults are at highest risk for serious health consequences if they develop it. Coronavirus Precautions has tips to help you reduce your chances of being exposed, as well as information on our communities’ prevention measures. As conditions change, so will our response.
My great uncle lives alone in northern Michigan. Since his wife passed away, he’s been getting increasingly isolated. While I visit as often as possible, my home is almost three hours away. He’s finally decided he would be better off in a senior living community. We are going to start searching for potential options with a goal of moving in the spring.
A colleague told me his father qualified for special financial assistance because he is a veteran like my uncle. How can I learn more about this program? My uncle has always been careful with his money, but he could benefit from a little help paying for care.
Veterans Benefits for Senior Care
Thank you for asking this question! It provides me with an opportunity to talk about one of my favorite programs. Like you, many veterans and their families aren’t aware of it. Commonly referred to as the Aid and Attendance benefit, it was created to ensure that those who served our nation and their surviving spouses receive the care they need.
Your uncle must meet certain eligibility criteria, including having served 90 days of active-duty service. At least one day of that service must have been during a recognized period of war.
Other eligibility requirements veterans such as your uncle must meet include:
- Age or disability: To receive this benefit, a veteran must be at least 65 years old or be totally and permanently disabled. Seniors who live in a nursing home or receive skilled nursing care may be eligible, as can veterans who are receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
- Financial criteria: There are both income and asset thresholds for veterans applying for the Aid and Attendance benefit. The Veterans Administration will look at the veteran’s overall net worth when determining eligibility.
- Physical condition: The veteran and/or their surviving spouse must also meet one of these conditions to be eligible:
- Be bedridden
- Live in a nursing home due to mental or physical limitations
- Be blind or nearly blind
- Require the aid of another person to perform everyday living tasks (e.g., dressing, bathing, feeding, toileting)
While families might think the process is too complicated, it’s important to know it can make a significant difference to veterans who qualify. The financial rewards change every year or two, but can range from $14,761 a year for a surviving spouse to $27,194 for a veteran with a spouse or child.
You can learn more by visiting the Pension Benefits area of the US Department of Veterans Affairs online. The staff at Heritage Senior Communities will also be happy to help answer questions. Call the community nearest you today!
Best of luck in your search, Nicole!
After visiting my mother in Michigan for Christmas, I realized she’s no longer safe living alone. While she is a little reluctant to move, she agreed that she may be happier in an assisted living community.
We decided that I would do some research online and make phone calls to communities that seemed like a good match. Having never done this before, however, I’m not sure what to ask. It all seems a little overwhelming.
What questions do you suggest I put on my list beyond availability and price? I’d be grateful for any input you could offer.
Important Questions to Ask Assisted Living Communities
The initial phone call to an assisted living community is important. Like you, many family members aren’t sure what to say or ask. Price is understandably at the top of the list, but there are a number of equally essential questions you should add.
Here are a few suggestions I hope you will find helpful:
How does the community recruit and train caregivers?
Quality care depends on attracting experienced, compassionate caregivers and providing ongoing training. Be sure to ask each community how their team members are recruited and screened. Then ask what kind of initial training staff receives. Remember, training shouldn’t stop after orientation. Make sure staff development happens regularly.
What is the community’s turnover rate?
When the community’s staff turnover rate is low, residents, caregivers, and families are able to develop meaningful relationships with one another. It promotes better continuity of care and more engaged residents.
Caring for seniors can be difficult, however, in ways other types of employment aren’t. It is physically demanding and emotionally challenging. Befriending an older resident and then watching their health decline isn’t easy. Yet assisted living team members do it throughout their careers. Keep that in mind.
What is the staff to resident ratio?
Another factor that influences the quality of care at an assisted living community is the number of experienced caregivers compared to the number of residents. Having time to build relationships translates to better care. The bond between caregivers and residents makes it easier for staff to identify and intervene in potential problems early.
What happens when a resident’s needs change?
While no one wants to imagine the worst, it’s essential to look ahead and plan for changes. Ask what will happen if your loved one’s care needs change.
For example, how would they respond if your mother develops an illness like Alzheimer’s disease? Can they provide the help she needs or will she have to move to a nursing home?
How can you review the community’s state survey results?
Assisted living communities are regulated at the state level. The laws in each state are a little different. One common denominator, however, is that states conduct surveys to ensure communities are complying with regulations.
Survey results, including family complaints, are public for anyone to review. Most states make these available online. In Michigan, you can review the last two years of survey results here.
What safety measures are in place to guard against COVID-19?
Lastly, make sure you ask how the community is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. As the number of cases ebbs and flows, a community’s approach might change. It’s important to understand what procedures are in place to lower the risk to residents and staff.
I hope this information helps you create your list, Stephanie! I’d also like to invite you to call the Heritage community nearest to your mother when you begin your search.