There are several ways you can help your loved one with managing dementia symptoms, helping them to benefit from a higher quality of life.
It can be tough to watch a loved one struggle with dementia in a nursing home. Sometimes it seems like there’s just nothing we can do to help, but family members play a crucial role in the wellbeing of loved ones with dementia.
While there may not be a cure for this progressive form of cognitive decline, encouraging your loved one to pursue healthy habits like the following can help improve their symptoms.
Eat a Healthy Diet and Get Regular Exercise
Eating a balanced diet and engaging in routine exercise has various benefits for seniors, including managing dementia symptoms. Healthy habits promote longevity and can slow the progression of mild cognitive impairment.
Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, providing our delicate brain cells with the oxygen and nutrients they need to thrive. Research also shows that exercise can relieve stress and boost your mood. Try to get your loved one to engage in aerobic exercise for about 20 to 30 minutes every day—brisk walking, cycling and swimming are great options.
Strength, flexibility and balance exercises are also crucial for reducing their risk of falls. Encourage your loved one to try yoga, tai chi or follow a senior-friendly bodyweight workout plan.
When it comes to diet, prioritize heart-healthy foods. These may have special brain benefits as well. For example, a Mediterranean diet rich in fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats may prevent brain tissue loss and improve circulatory health.
Pursue Activities for Better Brain Health
Research on the effectiveness of brain-training games for managing dementia symptoms is lacking. But broader mental exercises have shown to strengthen memory and improve other cognitive functions. Hobbies are an excellent way to challenge the brain and can even help your loved one feel more in control of their life.
Encourage your loved one to engage in real-world mental challenges, such as:
- Learning a new skill, like playing an instrument or speaking another language
- Doing things differently than usual, such as brushing their teeth with the opposite hand
- Memorizing grocery lists, phone numbers or to-do lists
- Taking up a fine-motor hobby such as knitting or painting
- Trying a sport that uses the mind, like tennis, golf or yoga
Maintain Social Connection
Depression is a common mental health problem that often comes with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As such, part of managing dementia symptoms is addressing the mental and emotional wellbeing of older adults.
Dealing with frustrating symptoms and facing a loss of independence can be extremely disheartening. Like all of us, seniors thrive on being connected to the world around them. Social engagement is crucial for staving off depression and promoting emotional health.
Social activities can give your loved one a sense of purpose, allowing them to feel included and important. Try to visit them often and encourage your loved one to participate in group activities whenever possible. Good nursing homes often have activity programs like crafting, games, music and exercise classes to help residents stay social.
Prioritize Comfort and Quality of Life
Disruptions to routine and the removal of familiar comforts can cause older adults with dementia to feel unsettled. Nursing homes can be very unfamiliar, so it’s essential to make your loved one feel safe and comfortable there. Help them set up a predictable routine to help make the place feel more like home.
People with dementia often want as much autonomy and independence as possible, so try to find ways to help them accomplish the things they want to do. This could involve adding helpful notes around their room, storing regularly used objects in plain view or adapting certain activities to make them more accessible.
It’s important to understand that people with dementia want to be seen as a whole person, not as their disease. Think about what kind of care and social engagement you would want if you were in their place. As a family member, you play a key role in helping your loved one stay connected and maintain a high quality of life.
Good quality nursing homes are highly familiar with the unique needs of seniors and they often incorporate many aspects of wellness-promotion in their care plans. Your loved one’s nursing home should facilitate a high quality of life for them. If you suspect any form of neglect is causing harm to your loved one, familiarize yourself with the warning signs so you can take action.