You’ve always had a special dynamic with your loved ones. And when they’re struggling with dementia, that dynamic becomes even more unique. You become a partner in their care, looking for every single way to make them healthy, happy, and safe. But did you know that you can actually help boost their immune system? Because a few small lifestyle changes can make a huge impact. So, here’s a bit more about your senior with dementia’s immune system and what you can be doing to strengthen it. With winter around the corner, there’s never been a better time to beef up their natural defenses.
The Link Between Aging and the Immune System
When it’s firing on all cylinders, the immune system works by identifying bacteria and germs, then sending “T Cells” to battle those intruders. Those T Cells are produced by a gland called the “thymus.” Over time, that thymus begins to shrink, limiting our ability to produce T Cells. This leaves your body with fewer, and less powerful weapons, to fight off illness. Further, the thymus teams up with several other organs — like the lymph nodes, kidneys, and liver — to manage bacteria and germs. Those organs also weaken with age, as does your immune response.
Immune System and Cognitive Decline
There is a growing body of research that suggests that a weakened immune system might accelerate the rate of cognitive decline. In other words, when someone close to you is struggling with dementia, you might see their condition worsen if their immune system does, too. So, while everyone’s immune system is important, its importance is amplified in people struggling with dementia. But here’s the good news: there’s plenty that you can do to help.
Five Tips for Boosting Your Loved One with Dementia’s Immune System
Whether you’re caring for a loved one or parent with dementia, or even just looking after yourself, below are a few things that we can all do to give our natural defenses a really nice boost.
Seniors tend to eat smaller portions and have a little less variation in their diet. So, it’s important to make sure that they’re getting enough of the right vitamins. Citrus foods, chicken, and watermelon are great sources of Vitamin C, B6, and cysteine, respectively. And those are all great for your loved one’s immune system. You’ll also want to explore a diet that features a lot of almonds, blueberries, and eggs. Diet can be the immune system’s best friend.
T Cells, as you recall, are an important part of fighting off infection. And since sleep can help our bodies produce more of those T Cells, it’s important to make sure that your senior is getting plenty of sleep. If your senior is having trouble sleeping, think about providing a bit of white noise, limiting fluids after a certain hour, and making sure that the temperature is just right. That can improve the quality of their sleep and give their immune system exactly what it needs to thrive.
Stress, unfortunately, releases a hormone that interferes with your immune system. So, look for ways to increase your senior’s overall level of ease. You can do that with a few minor changes, like reducing the amount of caffeine that they’re drinking, setting aside time to share some laughs, or even just meditating. Everyone’s stress response is different, so talk to your loved one and try to identify triggers. When you reduce your senior’s stress, you not only improve their quality of life, but their immune system as well.
Water helps your lymph nodes do their job, and further, it helps your body flush toxins. Both are key components of your immune system, so make sure that hydration really becomes a priority. The Mayo Clinic recommends that women drink about 92 ounces of water per day, while men should drink 124. Think about swapping out those sugary drinks for good old-fashioned water. You also might consider making water a part of your senior’s daily routine, like having a glass of water with each meal.
Talk to Your Doctor About Supplements and Beyond
Nutritional supplements can be a great way to make sure that your senior is getting enough vitamins, and their immune system, enough support. Similarly, immunizations and vaccinations can help them fight off germs and bacteria that they couldn’t otherwise fight off themselves. So, talk to your doctor about each of the above. Because they just might be the immune system’s secret weapon.
The immune system is one of the human body’s greatest miracles. But like anything else, it’s eventually going to show a little wear and tear. So, take a close look at your senior’s diet, stress levels, quality of sleep, and hydration. Each has been shown to give the immune system a much-needed helping hand. And as usual, talk to your doctor about supplements, both medically and nutritionally.
If you need more advice on keeping your loved one with dementia in good health, get in touch with us to request a consultation!