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There are many ways to help enhance the quality of life for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. One of the most important is to offer support to the person who has the disease or those who care for them. Many people feel isolated, frustrated and discouraged, both when they have the disease or are caring for someone with it.
Some of the ways you can help include:
Do little things – they mean a lot
If you’re on your way out to do an errand, call and see if the caregiver needs anything.
Give the caregiver a break
Offer to visit the person with the disease. Encourage the caregiver to spend time on a favourite hobby, run some errands or spend time alone.
Keep in touch
Maintain contact – a phone call, card, email or a visit means a great deal. The disease has an impact on all family members – spouses, adult children and even young children. Be attentive to their needs, too.
Health and Exercise
It is important that the person remain as fit and healthy as possible. Physical exercise will not only improve physical wellbeing but more importantly will improve mental well being due to the chemical activity that is triggered by physical exercise. For people with dementia this can help with feelings of depression about their disease. People suffering from depression or anxiety are often ‘prescribed’ exercise. Brain chemicals released during exercise: – serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and endorphins, are known to have strong effects on mood, helping reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, while also helping to strengthen your immune system. Twenty different types of endorphin have been discovered in the nervous system, and the beta-endorphins secreted during exercise have the most powerful effect. Sometimes described as ‘runners high’, the release of beta-endorphins reduces pain (the reason why running becomes easier after about 20 minutes) and stimulates feelings of euphoria – which is why so many people feel invigorated and enthusiastic after exercise.
Other psychological side effects of exercise include:
- Improved self-esteem and greater sense of self-reliance and self-confidence
- Improved mental alertness, perception and information processing
- Increased perceptions of acceptance by others
- Decreased overall feelings of stress and tension
- Reduced frustration with daily problems, and a more constructive response to disappointments and failures
Daily walks should be included in the routine of someone with dementia if possible.
Making sure you loved one eats a balanced healthy diet is important. Many foods contain the anti-oxidants vitamins C, E and beta-carotene which some suggest can help with dementia and fight again free radicals.
As dementia progresses, changes in a person’s eating habits and ability to eat often take place. Difficulties swallowing, changes in taste or a poor appetite can make it increasingly difficult to ensure that an adequate amount of nutritious food is eaten. A healthy diet is only as healthy as the food that is eaten. It is therefore important to take into account the person’s likes and dislikes and their ability to manage certain foods. Consider ways of preparing food to stimulate interest, particularly if the person’s appetite is poor.