Dementia Care Settings Can Enrich Patients’ Lives


Many Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers feel guilty when making arrangements for a loved one to attend a daycare program or move to a memory care community. It is understandable that they would want to keep their family member in their home, but an important advantage of both of these settings is that they provide life enrichment programs specifically tailored to the needs of people with these diseases. Many of the elements of these programs can also be provided in a home setting, but it can require a lot of dedicated effort.

Gone are the days when treatments for dementia sufferers focused solely on their physical needs. These patients were basically warehoused away to wait for the end of their lives. However, we now know that people with various neurodegenerative diseases can benefit from regular exercise, social interaction, creative expression, learning opportunities and spirituality programs.

Reputable care providers and facilities focus on all of these aspects in order to provide patients with the greatest quality of life for as long as possible.

Exercise for mind and body

Exercise is extremely important for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. People who engage in regular physical activity tend to develop Alzheimer’s later in life, and a healthy routine can actually help slow the progression of the disease. Exercises are also an excellent way to relax and de-stress as well.

Adult day programs and assisted living facilities typically feature a wide array of physical activity classes. Options can range from a series of simple stretches and movements coupled with breathing techniques to chair yoga. This seated form of yoga is gentle and promotes physical and mental wellness. Participants can sit in a chair to do the poses or stand while using the chair for stability.

Exercise can also provide relief from many other health issues associated with aging, improve muscle strength and cardiovascular health, and reduce the risk of falls. Improved mood, confidence and self-esteem are psychological benefits of staying active also.

If you are a caregiver creating an in-home activity program for a loved one, try to select one that you can also participate in so you can reap these important benefits too. Be sure to check with your loved one’s doctor to ensure the exercises you would like to engage in are appropriate and beneficial for your loved one and yourself.

Cooking and dining

Cooking and food preparation celebrate the joy and pleasure that can come from making and sharing a meal. Besides the obvious importance of nutrition for older individuals, food provides a chance for socialization and an opportunity to reminisce about favorite foods, special occasions and traditional recipes. It is a wonderful way to stimulate the senses.

Day care centers and long-term care facilities often feature simple projects such as baking cookies or making lemonade. Some board and care homes offer residents the opportunity to help with daily meal preparation to the extent they are able. You can also structure some of your in-home cooking routines and recipes to accommodate the participation of your loved one. Everyone enjoys feeling useful and having a sense of purpose.

Simple kitchen projects and recipes are a wonderful way to help dementia patients stay engaged and participate in their care. Not to mention, a loved one who is a finicky eater is more likely to eat well if they have participated in creating their snack or meal.

Creative expression

Research has established that persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias often experience a spike in creativity. Activities involving creative expression celebrate and encourage imagination involving the arts, poetry and music. Many adult day centers and care communities have an arts and crafts area with structured projects and regularly provide musical entertainment and even poetry readings.

 The part of the brain that processes music remains intact in many individuals with dementia, and their reaction to music can be truly profound. Music is a popular way to calm an agitated or confused loved one and connect with individuals who have difficulty speaking or communicating.
 This article was previously published on and republished here with permission.

About Author

Sandy Morris was married for 32 years and was her disabled husband's caregiver for the last 15 years of their marriage. Working in the senior services sector for the last three years, her experiences on both sides of the caregiver equation allow her to provide valuable information on everything from VA benefits to common caregiver challenges.

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