September is national Healthy Aging Month, created by Carolyn Worthington, editor-in-chief of Healthy Aging® Magazine. For the last few decades, Healthy Aging Month has provided an annual opportunity for seniors and those who care for them to reevaluate their health, lifestyles and habits, and find inspiration for adding more healthy activities into their daily lives. For those living with dementia, Healthy Aging Month can be a great motivator for patients and caregivers to boost their overall well-being.
“Despite the difficult symptoms that accompany memory loss, dementia patients can still experience abundantly healthy lifestyles,” says Lonette Bentley, Executive Director at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, a memory care community in Pensacola, Florida. “In fact, great healthy habits, such as a good diet and mental stimulation, can actually help to slow down the decline of cognitive abilities. Caregivers can take advantage of the national effort throughout September to motivate themselves and their loved ones to try new healthy habits.”
10 Tips for Dementia Patients
If you’re caring for a loved one with dementia, then you understand that ensuring their physical health is among your highest priorities. Especially when your loved one can’t always communicate their health issues, it’s up to you to make sure their health needs are met. As challenging as this task can be, adopting and implementing good healthy habits into your regular dementia care routine can put your loved one on the path to good overall health.
Here are ten tips for helping your loved one with dementia get on track for a healthy lifestyle:
- Stay Physically Active – If your loved one’s health allows them, encourage them to exercise regularly. Any type of physical activity that increases their heart rate can provide plenty of health benefits. Light cardiovascular activities, such as walking, lifting hand weights, swimming or ever gardening, improve circulation and blood flow to the brain. Not only is this necessary for the brain to receive vital nutrients, but it also decreases the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.
- Eat Well – Sometimes, dementia can affect a person’s sense of smell or taste, making it difficult for them to work up an appetite or enjoy eating. It’s often up to their caregiver to make sure they are getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Try to make meals more flavorful by cooking with spices or trying new recipes. Including “brain food,” like dark, leafy greens and fish, can also promote cognitive health. If your loved one struggles to eat well, consider giving them nutrient shakes to drink when they don’t feel like eating.
- Keep the Brain Active – Studies show that frequent mental activity has the potential to slow down the progress of cognitive decline. Help your loved one (and yourself) stay mentally active with stimulating activities such as word puzzles, reading, thoughtful conversation, or planning tasks. Have your loved one help you plan out meals for the week, or balance their checkbook together.
- Engage the Emotions – Just because someone has dementia doesn’t mean they have to give up the hobbies and pastimes they love. If your loved one has a favorite hobby, encourage them to pursue it. Help them find things to do that bring them joy and exercise for their emotional and spiritual health. Completing an art project or spending an afternoon volunteering can give them a sense of accomplishment and help them feel affirmation.
- Keep Connected – Social health can be just as important as physical health, especially for dementia patients and their caregivers. Help your loved one set up visits with friends and family members, or take them to a senior center or day program at a local senior living community to interact with their peers. Make sure you take some time to stay connected to your social circle as well. Isolation can wreak havoc on a person’s health, so prioritize your social life as often as you can.
- See the Doctor Regularly – Regular checkups with the doctor are critical for seniors living with dementia. Often times, your loved one may not be able to communicate their discomfort or health concerns in a way you can understand. Dementia patients often suffer from poor nutrition, incontinence and sleep issues due to the nature of their memory loss. Their doctor can address such health problems and suggest ways to manage their care.
- Try Holistic Therapies – Holistic treatments for dementia are increasingly popular for their accessibility and effectiveness. Music therapy, aromatherapy, art therapy, sensory stimulation, reminiscence therapy, pet therapy and more help those with dementia connect to the world around them through engaging activities that promote overall wellness and emotional and social health. Give a few holistic therapies a try with your loved one and see if you can make it a part of your daily care.
- Establish a Routine – Seniors with dementia often respond well to daily routines. It can help provide a normal structure to help them get through the day and avoid confusion or periods of boredom. Establishing a routine for your loved one can be a great way to help manage some of their more challenging behaviors. If your loved one is more peaceful in the morning, plan to run errands or schedule appointments during those hours. Plan more relaxing activities during the times they frequently become agitated. Keeping a routine can also help you transition your loved one to a new activity if they become upset, refocusing their attention on a more pleasant activity.
- Emphasize Strengths and Abilities – Instead of viewing your loved one’s capabilities – and your care for them – in terms of what they can no longer do, shift your focus to the things they still can do. Recognize their current abilities and strengths, and highlight these as you care for them. It may be easier and faster to pick out their outfit for them, but if they still can, giving them the chance to make their own decisions can greatly benefit their sense of self and normalcy. Focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses can create more positivity for both of you.
- Educate Yourself – Your loved one’s health and well-being is often directly tied to the type of care they receive. Although most family caregivers never received formal training in dementia care, there are plenty of opportunities for caregivers to learn the best techniques and methods for caring for someone with memory loss. Find ways to learn as much as you can about dementia and caregiving and the latest research in the field. Many memory care communities offer educational seminars for family members caring for a loved one at home.
Your Partner in Healthy Memory Care
If you would like to learn more about creating a healthy lifestyle for your loved one with dementia, contact Clarity Pointe Pensacola to get helpful advice from our specially trained team of dementia care partners.
“It’s our mission to enhance the lives of seniors with memory loss – not just those living in our community, but those being cared for at home, as well,” shared Bentley. “We offer a full calendar of programs for family caregivers to come and learn more about their loved one’s dementia and useful care techniques for their unique needs. We also offer respite care and support for caregivers. Call us to see how we can help your family live happier and healthier”
Clarity Pointe … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe™’s Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center, Clarity Pointe Pensacola offers three free-standing, purpose-built memory care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to memory care assisted living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.