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How to Improve the Quality of Life for a Parent with Dementia

For a loved one with dementia, living an otherwise healthy lifestyle can make a big difference in how the condition impacts their quality of life, and how it progresses. Caring for a loved one with dementia can also be overwhelming — through your care choices you have the power to dramatically impact his or her quality of life. Here are three of the biggest impact health choices you can make now:

Encourage them to get daily exercise

The benefits of physical fitness are well known, but now a number of studies are drawing surprising findings about exercise and its effects on dementia specifically.

One study found that, ”Exercise training increases fitness, physical function, cognitive function, and positive behavior in people with dementia and related cognitive impairments.” Another study found that “exercise may slow the rate of progression of the cognitive symptoms related to dementia; and […] slowed and reversed disability in some of the activities of daily living.”

More research needs to be done on this, as the exact drivers of these improvements are unknown. However, with exercise already being deemed healthy for everyone and especially those of advanced age, it should be embraced as part of a healthy care plan. Note that the first study also refers to exercise encouraging positive behavior — we all know that our loved ones can get frustrated from having to spend more time indoors and needing help with basic tasks — getting some of this negative energy out through exercise can help them better cope with their circumstances.

Ensure they have a healthy diet

The general confusion and lack of long term planning that accompanies dementia can understandably have adverse effects on diet. Meal planning or considerations for healthy food alternatives can often be overlooked , and it’s on the caretaker oftentimes to oversee these plans.

As dementia progresses, loss of appetite and the accompanying weight loss can lead to more significant problems, so these concerns are best tackled proactively from the start, with a meal plan that outlines a healthy diet. Through all this, remember to ask for input from your loved one and to make things that they actually like to eat to encourage them to eat the normal number of calories.

Help them live an engaged life

Even though our loved ones may lack the skills to engage in hobbies as they once would have, they still have a full capacity to be absorbed in a task. This gives them a sense of purpose, and is incredibly important for their overall health. So, evaluate what parts of daily life they can do for themselves, and encourage them to participate as fully as possible. Also find what they enjoy doing, and do these activities with them, facilitating the process along the way for an optimal experience.

These types of engagements, be they daily activities or recreational in nature, can have an incredibly positive impact on your loved one’s life. One study of factors of well-being in those with dementia found that, “For persons with dementia reporting about their own quality of life, these factors include mood, engagement in pleasant activities, and the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs).”

Caring for a loved one who has dementia, and doing it well, can be an overwhelming experience that, if not careful, threatens to take over the caregiver’s own life. We all need some extra help sometimes.

To get a better idea of where your loved one stands right now, and what level of support you would ideally be offering him or her, check out our Home Care Quiz, which assesses 6 key areas of well being:

  • Eating Habits
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Care of Home
  • Safety/Mental Attitude
  • Mobility
  • Behavior

At the end of our Home Care Quiz, you’ll also have the opportunity to schedule a free 30-Min virtual one-on-one session with Scott, our Memory Care Program Director, to get all your questions answered!

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