A very important part of being a good caregiver for someone who has Alzheimer’s is taking care of you – that means exercising. The benefits of exercise are well documented and include increased energy, improved sleep and an overall improved mood with reduced feelings of stress and anxiety. Scientists also believe that regular exercise helps with cognitive function, such as planning and multi-tasking and may help YOU protect the health of your own brain.
But how can you fit one more thing into your day? One answer is to exercise WITH the person you are caring for.
People with dementia also benefit from exercise. Inactivity can lead to muscle weakness and pain, increased agitation, anxiety and sleep disturbances. Certainly, all of these symptoms make caregiving more challenging and don’t favor a good quality of living for your loved one!
- Incorporate exercise into your daily schedule. (As a caretaker, you may also want to find some time to do something on your own.)
- Be realistic about abilities. You may need to break activity into shorter time spans throughout the day, rather than one long session. But you may be surprised by your loved one’s physical abilities, endurance and enjoyment.
- Take a walk together.
- Work in the garden.
- Put on some of your favorite music and dance.
- Lift light weights or use resistance bands.
- Throw a rubber exercise ball back and forth to each other.
- Do simple household chores; sweeping and vacuuming count as physical exercise too. This was just highlighted in a recent study!
- Check for classes at your local Council on Aging, community center or gym that may focus on senior health, such as yoga or Tai Chi.
For caregivers, focusing on daily exercise is a way to continue to take care of yourself while taking care of our loved one. For both of you, exercising and focusing on your fitness together provides a way to continue to stay connected and to take care of each other through the course of Alzheimer’s disease.