No matter your age or physical condition, your body needs to move to stay healthy.
Exercise for the elderly is one of the most important means of keeping not just bodies in tip-top shape — it helps keep minds healthy, too. And for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, stimulating the mind is key to slowing down the progress of mental decline, by clearing out amyloid plaques and repairing neural connections, according to recent research.
Exercise has been proven to help us, mind, body, and soul — but the best exercise won’t work if your patient or loved one is unwilling to participate. Here are some key things to remember to retain their interest:
- Keep it simple. Elaborate instructions will likely confuse your patient or loved one and lead to disinterest. Stick to one easy activity in a session.
- Keep it short. Limit exercise sessions to 10 minutes or less.
- Make it fun. The more entertaining the exercise is, the greater the chance your patient or loved one will stick with it. Whenever possible, turn the exercise into a game. Keep in mind, however, that your patient or loved one is an adult and avoid anything that may seem too childish or demeaning.
Health and safety guidelines
- Dress for comfort. Avoid constricting clothes that discourage freedom of movement, and dress appropriately for the weather. Think loose-fitting sweatsuits and clothing made from soft cotton, bamboo, and other comfortable materials. Make sure they have supportive footwear that doesn’t chafe or bind.
- Stay hydrated. Make sure your patient or loved one drinks plenty of water before and after their workout.
- Don’t forget the CDC guidelines. Be sure you and your loved one or patient are wearing face coverings and social distance as much as possible. Both of you should wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after your workout.
- Make sure your patient or loved one is wearing an ID bracelet. In the unlikely event you are separated, proper identification will greatly increase the chances your patient or loved one will be found quickly and returned to safety.
- Be mindful of limitations and health needs. Assess the health status of your patient or loved one and plan accordingly. Do not overexert them by pushing them beyond their abilities, particularly if they are morbidly obese or have a heart condition. For outings, make sure you have all necessary medications, plenty of water, and carbohydrate-rich foods or beverages to raise blood sugar if their levels get too low, particularly if your patient or loved one has diabetes.
- Keep exercise area well-lit and free of obstacles. Many seniors have osteoporosis or osteopenia, and a bad fall could be fatal.
Activities for the Elderly
This is an often-overlooked form of exercise which helps strengthen the body, using all the main muscle groups. Being connected to nature and the Earth is good for the spirit and fosters an improved outlook.
An added benefit is that being out in the sun provides your patient or loved one with Vitamin D, a vital nutrient for fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. It is also a key ingredient in fighting the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
Swimming is one of the best exercises of all. It burns a maximum number of calories per hour, much more than a leisurely walk. Swimming exercises all the main muscle groups is easy on the joints and helps improve coordination and balance. And it’s fun and refreshing, especially on a hot summer day. During the COVID pandemic, however, finding safe swimming locations may be a challenge. Choose swimming areas where social distancing is always possible.
Chair yoga and other seated exercises are especially ideal for mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s patients or those who have mobility issues. Incorporate the use of resistance bands to help build muscle, or improve eye-hand coordination by tossing balls, beanbags, and other items back and forth between you.
If your patient or loved one tends to get overstimulated, impatient, or easily confused, walking is a good choice if they have full mobility. Since they already know how to walk, no instruction is necessary. Just put on your walking shoes and go! Be sure you select a paved walking path where social distancing is always possible.
Incorporate the wonderful benefits of music and exercise with dancing. Listening to music has been shown to help improve memory and slow down the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Moving to the music will help boost mood, improve coordination and balance, and get the heart rate going.
Like dancing, marching to the beat can help improve coordination and balance, as well as improve one’s mental health. Marching is also a high-impact exercise, which can do wonders for helping build bone mass and muscle.
Using a stationary bike
Allow your patient or loved one to enjoy all the benefits of bike riding but in a safe, convenient package. Make it more interesting for your patient or loved one by providing music of their choice or a show they would like to watch. Some bikes, like the Peloton, allow you to interface with trainers or take virtual rides through beautiful locales such as the French Alps or the canyons of Utah.
This is an enjoyable activity, and your patient or loved one might have so much fun, they’ll forget they are exercising! And it’s great for eye-hand coordination and balance, too.
Learn more about how exercise for the elderly can help
Want to learn more about how exercise can benefit your patient or loved one? Be sure not to miss our other helpful blog posts about how to help seniors during this difficult time. To learn even more, give us a call at (207) 699-2570 or send us an email at [email protected] Advantage Home Care provides quality, specialized care tailored to meet your needs —and you’ll have peace of mind knowing your patient or loved one is in good hands.