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Friday, September 21, 2007

Exercise, Gingerbread, and Visits for a Senior with Alzheimer's

One of my favorite activities with a senior who had Alzheimer's was when we combined a walking exercise routine with a trip to bring gingerbread (with whipped cream) to the neighbors for visits. Who said exercise had to be dull? This way an elderly senior had a pleasant recreational time that provided motivation. Cooking the gingerbread, interacting socially with the neighbors, and enjoying companionship made it a good day for a senior who might otherwise have sat alone at home in front of a television. The gingerbread visits became part of the weekly activities, and the elderly neighbors recipricated.

Some of my favorite times assisting seniors who had Alzheimers have been when we went walking in the neighborhood or for outings. Apart from the relaxation and pleasure there are many benefits to exercise for the person who has Alzheimer's, and the caregiver can enjoy the exercise too. Understanding the activities recommended and following directions from medical personnel are important when assisting someone with Alzheimer's or Dementia. At you can read about the benefits of light exercise and walking. Exercise helps with the following : (1) maintaining independence (2) reducing wandering, aggression, and agitation (3) increasing mobility. It also can be part of the recreational activities that add pleasure to the day.

When paid caregivers provide care at the home for someone who has Alzheimer's and who lives alone, medical professionals can recommend exercise types and amounts. Often a frail elderly person who lives alone watches television for much of the day. A daily routine that includes light exercise, as recommended by medical professionals, can be part of the caregiving.

Some of my favorite activities with seniors include going outside for a walk on a nice day and looking at the neighborhood gardens. In my area there are a lot of fruit trees and the climate is mild. Going out to pick oranges, apples, persimmons or figs from trees in the backyard has been something I've done with many seniors, depending what fruit trees they have planted.

Sometimes seniors with Alzheimer's or Dementia have lost interest in getting up from their chair to go for a walk, but I try to think of something that will appeal to their personal interests to provide motivation.

With another senior, who was 96 years old and on a walker, I used to walk down a long driveway in the countryside to the mailbox and to pick up the newspaper each day. We also went out for shopping trips, visits to the beauty parlor, scenic drives, errands, and church activities.

Physical therapists have hand-outs and leaflets available of exercises that non-ambulatory people can do while sitting in a chair. The physical therapist can make an evaluation and recommend a routine of walking, and other exercises.

For example, sometimes it is recommended that a person who watches television from a recliner be encouraged to get up once per hour and walk around the house a little bit. It is easy for elderly people to get involved for hours at a time with television, and varying the activities also has more mental stimulation.

The agitation, tension, and sundowners wandering can be alleviated by having some exercise, and many articles, studies and websites explain more about this.

It's important to get directions from medical personnel, especially physical therapists. Home Health Agencies who send nurses and therapists to the house, or physical therapists in a facility can give directions to the caregiver regarding the exercise.

If the person uses a walker or wheelchair we can still go for an outing and get exercise. I pull the wheelchair along behind someone who is using a walker if there is a chance the person will get too tired to walk. Sometimes a person who uses a wheelchair will have the footrests taken off for awhile and ride in the chair while pushing with the feet and pushing the wheels with their hands. Caregivers need to get directions and exercise routines from medical personnel.

The exercise routine time can be a relaxing and pleasant time for the frail elder and the caregiver. Combining exercise with outings can reduce stress and add a recreational activity to
the day.

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