The summer is fast approaching - meaning warmer weather, longer days, and many more activities to choose from. It's important to take advantage of the warmer months, partaking in physical activities and exercise.
Physical activity has so many benefits, regardless of a dementia diagnosis, including improved mood, an increase in health and well-being, and the opportunity to develop new relationships. However, only 16% of Canadians with dementia actually meet their therapeutic exercise targets, and only 50% of Canadians with dementia engage in regular physical activity.
The barriers to engaging in physical activity are mostly around society, including stigma and lack of inclusivity. As a way to break down these barriers, it's important to educate communities about dementia, offer adaptations in regular community exercise programming, and stay open-minded. This way, if people with dementia are uncomfortable disclosing their dementia diagnosis to a group, options will already be available for them to participate. Becoming dementia-friendly not only benefits persons with dementia and their care partners, but benefits society overall.
If you're a care partner and are looking for ways to engage with your loved one with dementia, try doing physical activity and exercise. Here are some simple tips if attending an exercise group together, or simply engaging in activities individually.
Some people with dementia understand best through demonstrations. Having an instructor or care partner demonstrate the movements not only benefits people with dementia, but also people with hearing loss or other conditions.
Having a person individually instruct on a one-on-one basis might also support people with dementia in participating. This makes people feel supported and included.
Modifying the Activity
Making some simpler versions of an activity benefits not only people with dementia, but also people who are new to exercise or physical activity. Providing extra time to complete an activity, offering an easier type of movement, and always being open to taking breaks whenever people might need are some ways to ensure this.
Staying Open-Minded and Flexible
Not all activities need structure. Staying open-minded and flexible allows space for fun and gives people the opportunity to mess up and not be embarrassed! Remember, activities should be a form of leisure. Enjoy the activity while having some laughs and enjoying one another's company.
Treating Everyone Equally
It is important not to single out people with dementia in exercise activities. Treat everyone equally and ensure that all people feel included. Offering these modifications without disclosing anyone's conditions maintains that comfort level for people and encourages individuals to continue staying active, along a dementia journey or not.
Are there any exercises or activities that you do? How might you modify them for people with dementia? Share in the comments below!
Laurin, D., Verreault, R., Lindsay, J., MacPherson, K., & Rockwood, K. (2001). Physical activity and risk of cognitive impairment and dementia in elderly persons. Archives of Neurology, 58(3), 498-504. doi: 10.1001/archneur.58.3.498
O’Connell, M. E., Dal Bello-Haas, V., Crossley, M., & Morgan, D. G. (2015). Attitudes toward physical activity and exercise: Comparison of memory clinic patients and their caregivers and prediction of activity levels. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 23(1), 112-119. doi: 10.1123/JAPA.2013-0035