Physical Fitness and the Caregiving Journey

Traditionally Spring is a time of fresh starts, cleaning, and new activities.  Fitness and nutrition become a focus with increased outdoor opportunities. But families caring for a loved one with dementia are often overwhelmed with day to day care.  Research shows that both Alzheimer’s caregivers and their loved one with dementia greatly benefit from twenty to thirty minutes of moderate intensity walking five times a week. Benefits of this simple plan include:

  • decreased caregiver stress, burden, depression
  • a slowing of Alzheimer’s disease in the early stages
  • improved overall quality of life

A similar study looked at behaviors of the individual with dementia. Moderate to intense exercise decreased neuropsychiatric behaviors. For caregivers dealing with difficult behaviors, this is a viable, non-pharmaceutical approach with great appeal.

If 20-30 minutes seems too much right now, consider a Japanese research initiative that found that 10 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous exercise resulted in 3.2% decrease in non-communicable diseases including dementia, musculoskeletal joint impairment and mortality.

If your loved one is dealing with balance issues, regular higher intensity functional exercise resulted in improved balance.  A combined aerobic and non-aerobic exercise approach resulted in improved cognition as well.

Kris, a family caregiver, found that a simple aerobics class at her local YWCA kept her husband with early onset dementia engaged.   The class welcomed him, he fulfilled most of the directions, and his humor in the class extended for the remaining morning.  Whether it is a simple class at the local YMCA, a program or a shared walk with others, regular exercise of any type is a positive for caregivers with or without their loved one.

Let Dr.  Cate strategize with you on ways to enhance your caregiving journey.  Her objectivity, experience and training can ease your journey.  Dr. Cate can help you navigate difficult behaviors, develop an engagement plan, and coordinate with family members.  She is committed to improving the whole memory care journey for caregiver and loved one; mind, body, spirit.

About Cate

Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.
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