Dementia is a progressive condition that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. As dementia progresses, a person’s mobility and physical functioning often decline as well. However, engaging in physical exercise and staying active can help maintain mobility and minimize functional impairment. Here are some tips for encouraging physical activity for a person with dementia at home:
Make Exercise Part of the Routine
Set up a regular exercise routine and make it a habit. Try to incorporate some type of physical activity into the daily schedule, whether it’s a morning walk, afternoon stretching session, or evening dance party. Developing a routine makes it more likely that exercise will continue even as dementia progresses. Adapt activities as needed to match the person’s changing abilities.
Keep It Simple
Simpler activities are often more accessible for a person with dementia. Take daily walks around the block. Do seated exercises like marching legs or arm circles. Play a person’s favorite music and dance together. Focus on mobility rather than complicated choreography. Avoid over-exertion.
Make It Enjoyable
Find activities the person enjoys and turn it into exercise. If they like gardening, do light yardwork together. Kick a ball back and forth or throw a Frisbee outside. Whatever the activity, keep the focus on having fun together rather than strictly exercising. A positive emotional experience encourages continued participation.
Allow the person to move independently whenever it is safe to do so. Using walkers, canes or other assistive devices promotes mobility while also providing stability and support when needed. Have chairs readily available for rest breaks. With supervision, encourage doing things like standing up, sitting down, and walking independently, rather than immediately assisting. This maintains mobility skills longer.
Engage and Redirect
If resistance to exercise arises, engage the person in conversation and redirect to a new activity. Remain patient, flexible, and positive. Even exercises done in a seated position provide physical and cognitive benefits. Breaking exercise into smaller segments may also help with compliance.
Recruit Help from Others
Enlist family members, friends or professional caregivers to join in exercise activities. Having a partner provides socialization along with added safety and assistance. It also gives the primary caregiver a break. Consider adult day programs that incorporate supervised exercise.
Regular exercise, even in simple ways, benefits physical and mental health for a person with dementia. Focus on abilities retained versus lost skills. Be creative and flexible in adapting activities to changing needs. With patience and commitment, incorporating exercise into daily care routines at home can maintain mobility and maximize quality of life.