Define dementia. What is it?
Dementia is not a specific disease. It is a combination of symptoms associated with a decline in memory and effects on thinking ability that may affect how an individual performs their daily tasks. Alzheimer’s disease is responsible for at least 60-80% of the cases and hence a good number of dementia cases are alzheimer’s patients. It is followed by vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke.
There are other symptoms that cause dementia, some of which are reversible, such as vitamin deficiencies and thyroid problems.
For a long time, dementia has been incorrectly referred to as “senility” or “senile dementia” due to the myth that mental decline is part of the aging process.
Common Symptoms of Dementia
The signs and symptoms of dementia vary from one individual to another. Additionally, it also varies depending on the stages of dementia. Here are some of the common symptoms exhibited by people with dementia;
- Difficulty in finding the right words to describe something.
- Memory loss which is noticed by their partner or a close relative.
- Problem reasoning and solving life problems in general.
- Difficulty when handling complex tasks
- Issues with coordination and motor skills
- Confusion and disorientation
- Problems with planning and staying organized
- Problems with spatial and visual abilities, eg, getting lost when driving
You may also observe changes on the patient’s behaviour. Such as;
- Inappropriate behavior
- Personality changes
Talk to your doctor if you observe these signs in your loved ones, in order to device a daily care plan.
Causes of Dementia
Dementia is caused by loss of nerve cells or their damage to their connection to the brains. Dementia can, therefore, affect people differently and cause different symptoms depending on the brain cells that are damaged.
Dementia types are classified based on the type of protein, protein deposits in the brain, or the part of the brain that is affected. Some ailments such as the ones caused by vitamin deficiencies and medications may look like dementia. However, these illnesses can improve with treatment.
Exercising Helps Dementia Patients in Strengthening Muscles
Tips of Keeping a Dementia Patient Engaged
Staying active is very crucial to both physical and cognitive health, so it is essential for individuals living with cognitive dementia. Activities such as games, outdoor activities, daily routines, art among others have been proven to be very helpful for a person with dementia. For example, providing a daily routine for individuals with dementia will help in reducing their anxiety, improve their cognitive function, calm aggressive behaviors, and give them a sense of security.
Here is a list of stimulating dementia activities that can help keep them busy and active and also give them a sense of accomplishment. Note that the activities are not arranged in their order of importance.
1.Test your trivia knowledge. A study carried out by Rush University Medical Center followed 1100 people, of age 80 and discovered that playing board games such as trivia games helped in staving off mental illnesses. This is because they promote activities in the temporal and hippocampus of the brain. This is the section where the memory of the brain works, explaining why it may contain the effects of dementia.
2.Do a puzzle together. Research showed that elders who were suffering from memory loss([people with dementia) and played puzzles (including picture puzzle) twice a week for 45 minutes improved their scores on memory tests. In the long run, the senior’s symptoms delayed or declined by nine months.
3.Complete the crossroad. As the memory of your loved one starts to decline, many individuals relieve them all of their duties. As much as you may think it is for their good, you might be harming them. They do not need constant memories for their declining abilities. This means that if your loved one was enjoying crossroads, there is a chance they will still enjoy it.
4.Try some improvisation. Improvisation is all about living in the present moment, which is a very safe place for someone with memory loss. Thinking about the past is a bit sad for them when they realize they cannot remember much about it. Similarly, thinking about the future may intensify anxiety because they do not know how life will be then. The present time is, therefore, a very safe place to be for dementia patients.
5.Brain-training computer games. A clinical trial carried out by studying 2800 individuals showed that it was possible for brain games to delay dementia by a decade. The participants who were 65 years old on average, who played games to boost brain processing were 29% less likely to get dementia (reduced dementia risks) in the next ten years. Even with patients with ongoing dementia or alzheimer’s, brain training games have been shown to increase their cognitive skills.
6.Tell a joke. Patients of dementia still have their sense of humor. Find activities that you can enjoy together; besides, everyone needs a good laugh to balance life. This may also help you as the caregiver to realize your playful side. Keeping a light atmosphere helps to reduce agitation and other behavioral symptoms associated with dementia.
7.Dig in the garden. This a good way to enjoy fresh air and exercise. The change of scene can also be good for you as the caregiver. Letting the patient have their own garden or section where they can dig, and weed is a brilliant idea. Weeding, sweeping paths, trimming lawn edges, and general tidying are all activities that dementia patients can cope with and stay busy. Additionally, gardening provides sensory stimulation which is considered good for dementia patients.
8.Give chair exercises a try. Face the individual and have smooth and rhythmic music playing. Although any music with positive vibes is great, you may consider playing music from their era. Please consider their music preference during the selection. Create a routine that is easy to follow. You can begin with 20 minutes and proceed to 45 minutes or as tolerated. Have breaks in between. Handheld props strengthen hands and give a stimulating visual to follow the leader.
9.Take a dip in the pool. For many individuals, swimming is associated with great childhood memories. It can, therefore, have a positive impact on the individual’s mood, which lasts long after the swimming moments.
10.Try Tai Chi. This is an exercise-based intervention that is said to prevent falls. It is an ancient Chinese exercise that is carried out slow, with flowing movements and controlled breathing. The exercise has a calming effect, and it works out leg muscles improving coordination. It is also a fun way of controlling stress among dementia patients.
11.Ride a bicycle. A tandem bicycle is helpful as you can ride and control the bicycle as the patient pedals. If they already have issues with balance, consider hiring a three-wheeled bicycle, while you cycle alongside with them.
12.Try a cardio-based activity. Dementia patients need to stay healthy and fit to avoid other complications. Cardio exercises and other physical activities help increase blood flow and oxygen in the brain. The activities and exercise have a way of nourishing the mind and calming down the anxiety of the patients. It generally helps them refresh in all dimensions.
13.Bust a move. Everyone loves some fun. You can enroll the patient in senior clubs as they always include dancing in their calendars. If the person does not know how to dance, they can learn simple dancing styles such as square dancing, which they can learn and enjoy.
14.Keep a journal. Every teacher stresses the importance of journaling in life. You have possibly had people talk about the great results of gratitude journals. For a seniors with dementia, journaling can help them improve their mental strength as well as ease their stress. As a caregiver, there is a time you are worn out, frustrated, or having fun. Journaling can help make your journey of taking care of your loved one easier.
15.Take note of the power of music. Music is a cure to the soul. Even for people living with dementia, it has been observed that listening to music can improve their behavioral issues that are common in the middle stages of the diseases. Surprisingly, even a patient in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, can tap a beat or sing lyrics from their childhood. Music is a way of communicating, even after verbal communication is impossible. Various pieces of research have proven the power of music therapy.
16.Create a memory box. This is a good way of spending time together if you are not planning on going outdoors. Create a memory box of good times and go through it together. The box will help them calm down and relax when they are feeling anxious.
17.Visit somewhere familiar and pleasant. It is good to take the dementia patients on the places they loved before, and which they enjoyed. These are places which they associated with happiness and sparks their old memories. They include; museums, coffee shops, and public places. Such places may help improve their memory.
18.Eat and sleep at the same time each day. Sick or not, we function best when we eat and sleep the same time every day. Whenever possible, try to have regular times to eat and sleep. It gives a day a structure and improves focus for the day.
19.Don’t be scared to talk about memories. You may be scared to talk about the past because you don’t know what the reaction of your loved one will be. However, most times, talking about good memories gives them an idea of their beautiful life. Listening can also distract them from depression and anxiety, which is good for them.
20.Take up knitting. Knitting stimulates certain brain parts. This includes the memory and attention span, which are the main functions affected by dementia. Knitting strengthens this functions back, and like muscles keep them strong even when a patient gradually loses cognitive abilities. Note that knitting and other similar activities can slow down the loss of cognitive abilities by 50%.
21.Cook or bake something together. cooking or baking may be a good way of spending time together. See that you let them do what is safe as much as possible. However, this again depends on the stage of their illness. It may be a time when they just sit and watch as you cook, or when you let them take the lead and only help out on the parts that you think are sensitive.
Dementia Patients Enjoy Outdoor Activities as it Connects them With Nature
Living with an individual with dementia can be a bit challenging and frustrating. It is sad to see the person who you once loved, forget all the beautiful memories you shared.
Despite the changes that may have taken occurred such as anger issues and anxiety that do not reflect the person they used to be; it is time for you to love them, and help them live a normal and comfortable life as much as they can.
Keeping them busy with meaningful activity is a part of the dementia therapy and is one of the best ways to improve their quality of life and decrease their symptoms of dementia. See that you practice the above activities and exercises with them (as an essential part of dementia care) and see the improvement they bring.