Activities and Exercise - Dementia Caregiver Web Support
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Dementia Caregiver Web Support


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Activities and Exercise

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Finding appropriate activities

Just because a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it does not mean that he/she should give up what they enjoy most. You will find that most activities can be modified to make it easier for your loved one to accomplish. Caregivers should incorporate exercise and other fun activities into their loved one’s daily plan as it can greatly enhance their quality of life and reduce problem behaviors (discussed here). Before reading the content on this page, it may be beneficial to review the following video(s) from the Office of Rural Health (ORH).

Engaging People with Dementia in Meaningful Activities
Length- 7:33 (Link opens new window)
People with dementia lose their ability to plan things on their own, leaving caregivers to help engage their loved one in activities that are meaningful. This video encourages caregivers to establish a consistent but flexible routine, to set realistic expectations, and to discover activities that provide a sense of accomplishment for the person with dementia.

 elderly friends play cards

How to choose appropriate activities

  • If your loved one appears withdrawn or depressed, small social gatherings might prove beneficial. However, steer clear of large crowds, which can be overwhelming.
  • If the person with dementia enjoys children, allow family and friends with children to visit.
  • Keep the person’s skills and abilities in mind to avoid frustration, and stick with activities that they enjoyed in the past. Remember that you might need to modify certain activities to suit their needs. For example, if your loved one was very active in their youth, he/she might enjoy a leisurely stroll, swim or easy tennis match with friends. If a person played the piano years ago, they might still be able to play simple songs. If they enjoyed dancing, you might encourage them to take a senior dancing class. You should try to incorporate these skills into their daily activities (more information on how to create a daily plan for your loved one here).
  • Music and art allow for creativity and can improve the lives of a person living with Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that music can reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues, and can even provide a way to connect after a person with dementia is unable to communicate verbally. Using tranquil music can create a calm environment and help your loved one focus, while faster paced music (or music from their past) may boost spirits and evoke happy memories.
  • Pay attention to what your loved one seems to enjoy and avoid activities that seem to cause negative reactions, such as fear or anxiety.
  • Encourage involvement in daily activities, such as setting the table or folding clothes. This might help a person with dementia feel valued.
  • As the disease progresses, be prepared for your loved one to take a less active role in activities.

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VA Resources

US Department of Veterans Affairs
VA values your commitment as a partner in our pledge to care for those who have "borne the battle." We have several support and service options designed with you in mind. The programs are available both in and out of your home to help you care for yourself and the Veteran you love.

Geriatrics and Extended Care Services (GEC) is committed to optimizing the health and well-being of Veterans with multiple chronic conditions, life-limiting illness, frailty or disability associated with chronic disease, agining or injury. This VA site reviews information on delirium, dementia and Alzheimer's care, decision making, home and community based services, and advance care planning, among many other important topics that may be important for you as a caregiver.

Veteran's Crisis Line Phone: 1-800-273-8255 (Veterans Press 1)

  References: Information adapted from Alzheimer’s Association and Office of Rural Health
If you have any questions or concerns, contact us.