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Alzheimer's: Activities - Keeping Active

Exercise and activities help both the Alzheimer's patient and the caregiver. Learn what exercises can help relieve stress for both of you at HealthyPlace.

Exercise and activities help both the Alzheimer's patient and the caregiver.

How can activities help you as a caregiver?

  • Boredom and frustration are the two most common causes of challenging behavior in people with Alzheimer's. If the person you are caring for is occupied and stimulated, some of the behavior that you find most difficult may lessen or even stop altogether.
  • Sharing an activity that you both enjoy benefit you as much as the person you are caring for. It may also bring the two of you closer together, and help you find new ways to relate to each other.
  • Discovering new ways to stimulate the person you care for can be satisfying, and may enable you to think differently about your caring role.

Talk with the person you are caring for to work out which activities fit in with their interests. Try to find imaginative ways to adapt their activities to their changing capabilities and moods. Here are some suggestions.

Exercise and Alzheimer's

Exercising together will help you and the person you care for. Exercise burns up the adrenalin produced by stress and frustration, and produces endorphins, which can promote feelings of happiness. This will help both of you relax and increase your sense of wellbeing. Exercise can help you develop a healthy appetite, enjoy increased energy levels and sleep better at night.

  • Walking is a great form of exercise that provides a change of scene and some fresh air. Many caregivers find ingenious ways of arranging little trips, even if it is only to a local coffee shop.
  • Swimming is another good all-around exercise, and the feeling of being in the water can be very soothing and calming.
  • If you want something more sociable, find out if your local leisure or community center offers classes for older people, such as gentle stretching or tai chi.

Reminders of the past and Alzheimer's

People with Alzheimer's can often remember the distant past more easily than recent events. If you can find a way to trigger the more distant, pleasant memories of the person you care for, they may become more lively and interested.

  • Talk about the past together, while looking at old family photos or books with pictures, or listening to old music.
  • Make up a 'rummage box' of old objects that the person with Alzheimer's is interested in. Physically handling things may trigger memories more effectively than looking at pictures.
  • Talking about the past in this way can trigger strong emotions in the person you care for, so it's important to be sensitive. You may uncover painful memories as well as happy ones. Alzheimer's damages the memory and the thinking and reasoning parts of the brain, but the emotions still remain intact.

 


In the early stages

In the early stages of Alzheimer's, the person will probably want to continue doing the things they have always done. People with Alzheimer's retain memory for some activities, depending on which part of the brain has been damaged. Activities such as reading, typing or playing the piano are not always affected. As their caregiver, you are the best person to help them keep active because you know them so well.

  • Encourage the person to enjoy activities on their own.
  • Provide encouragement and reminders.
  • Put any equipment in a place where the person can see it and reach it easily.
  • Use short sentences when you suggest what to do.

Activities and Alzheimer's

Knitting Someone who has been a skilful knitter may still be able to knit squares for a blanket.

Puzzles Someone who has enjoyed doing crosswords may still enjoy a simple puzzle book.

Social activities Play cards or board games, or do some gardening or baking together.

Around the home Men and women alike can enjoy helping with washing and drying up, laying the table or making beds. The end result may not be perfect, but it can give an important sense of achievement.

Music Even when other abilities are seriously affected, many people still enjoy singing, dancing and listening to music. Ask a friend to help you record a tape of the person's favorite pieces of music or songs for them to listen to.

TV and radio Many people with Alzheimer's enjoy listening to the radio. Television, however, can cause problems. Some people with Alzheimer's lose the ability to tell the difference between what is real and what is on screen, and can become distressed. They can also become confused by too much noise. Try watching television together, and choose programs with small sections of action or humor, rather than a program with an involved plot. Even a favorite soap opera may become confusing.

Sources:

  • Alzheimer's Society - UK, Carers' Advice Sheet 505, June 2005.
  • Keeping a Person With Alzheimer's Active and Happy, Rachel Pickett, web published Feb 2, 2006.

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2008, December 24). Alzheimer's: Activities - Keeping Active, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alzheimers/maintaining-quality-of-life/activities-keeping-active

Last Updated: May 8, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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