If you have a loved one who has been diagnosis with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is important that they remain as healthy and fit as possible. The one thing we can provide such people is the best quality of life possible, and this will depend greatly on their general level of health.
The person’s emotional health is as important as their physical health. You may find that someone with dementia may need encouragement that they are still valued, activities that stimulate them and that they enjoy, and social interaction with friends who understand. However, we must remember to avoid over-stimulation. We must also keep in mind the time of day, and the length of time when we are implementing these things with your loved one. Keep in mind also that routine is very important to a person with dementia.
Exercise is important as well. It can keep your loved one mobile and flexible. It improves circulation, may improve sleep and sleeping habits, and reduce anxiety and stress. Simple stretching may prevent falls, and as with the social stimulation mentioned above, a regimen of exercise staves off boredom and depression. Adding music to their exercise or stretching routine can make a big difference in their state of mind. Music brings back good feelings and will put a smile on their face. Implementing music and dancing in your exercise program will be nothing but positive; you may even hear them singing the words. Exercise can also be done with people in wheelchairs or who are less mobile. The point is just to do something.
In order to benefit fully from exercise, they must also eat right. Hydration is very important; give them plenty of water. Good nutrition – especially fruits, vegetables, and fiber – will avoid constipation.
For all-round comfort and good health, make sure they are not too hot or too cold. This could increase their anxiety levels, especially when they are having trouble with their verbal language skills.
Don’t ignore dental, optical, and auditory health. Good teeth, vision, and hearing are important to enable dementia persons to participate as much as possible in good nutrition, exercise, and social activity. The same can be said for podiatry. Keep a close eye on feet and lower legs, and deal with concerns as early as possible. Always let attending doctors, dentists, and specialists know that the individual has dementia.
Let’s be more specific about dental problems. Pain while eating or even drinking, bad breath, frequently removing, hiding or even throwing dentures away, increased agitation, moaning, shouting, or refusal to eat can indicate it is time for examination and care. Adhering to a schedule of regular dental check-ups will help detect problems. Make sure they continue to brush and floss. As the individual declines, you cannot assume they are taking care of themselves. You may have to assist in these tasks.
Eye examinations are equally important. Pay attention to whether they are having trouble recognizing faces; whether they need more light or have stopped reading, if they have problems finding food or small objects, or are having trouble seeing the television. Regular eye examinations can detect problems that we cannot see, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and overall eye health. We know that tunnel vision and a lack of depth perception comes with dementia, but we should not let this be an excuse to neglect other aspects of optical health.
Hearing examination is another important care practice. Not being able to hear will isolate the individual from others and his environment. Make sure the professional administering a hearing test is aware that your individual has dementia so that proper adjustments can be made. As with eye examination, the professional will be able to see things that we cannot, such as wax buildup or infections.
The person with dementia may not be able to speak to you and tell you what is bothering them, what might be hurting, if they are too hot or cold. We must be a lot like a detective and we must watch and listen. Their behaviors will help us figure out what might be the problem.
As caregivers, we cannot fix everything but we can try to maintain overall health for the sake of the best quality of life possible.
Until next time remember: “We all deserve the best”
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© Debbie Selsavage, 2016