As we all know, there is no drug or therapy yet proven to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. There are, however, things you can be doing for mom or dad to optimize their physical and emotional wellbeing and to help them retain as much cognitive function as possible. Here are some tips recommended by the Mayo Clinic as well as our own staff. How many of them are you doing with your loved one on a regular basis?
- Exercise. Research shows that increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain can aid in memory retention. Simple exercises conducted regularly have many benefits. Having a daily walk is an excellent way to safely increase the heart rate and help keep muscles strong.
- Listening to music. Most of us can remember where we were when we heard a certain song. Music has the power to connect us to other times and places. It can often have the same effect on those challenged by dementia.
- Art projects. Whether it’s sketching, painting or even potting a plant, working with the hands is a purposeful activity with many therapeutic benefits.
- Interaction with pets. Pets are often able to communicate and connect in ways that humans simply can’t match. We have seen some surprising results when our residents interact with animals.
- Aromatherapy. There are a variety of plant-based oils that are known to have a soothing effect. Often the fragrance of a favorite flower or aroma of a homemade meal can stimulate old memories.
- Massage therapy. Did your mom or dad always love a good massage in past years? Consider using massage to help reduce their anxiety and reinvigorate tired muscles.
Of course, adopting a healthy diet and scheduling regular visits to the doctor are key to keeping your loved one as healthy as possible, for as long as possible. Take some time to explore these activities with your loved one and you’ll soon discover which ones they are more naturally inclined to enjoy. For instance, your mom may not be a lover of animals, but may really enjoy the calming effect of hearing her favorite music. Others may be more oriented towards working with their hands. The key is consistency. If possible, try to keep to a schedule and provide plenty of time for your parent to adjust to something new.
At our Anthem Memory Care communities we believe in exposing our residents to activities that stimulate the senses as well as bring joy and a sense of purpose. Providing exposure to art, music and opportunities to interact with animals helps individuals with dementia maintain a better connection to the world around them.
As you continue your journey with your loved one, try to make new activities part of your routine. Explore each one together. You may find some pleasant surprises along the way.