Oct 19, 2011

Activity Helps Dementia Patients Sleep, Eat and Become Less Agitated

When I discuss activity as a remedy for a problem being experienced by an Alzheimer's caregiver I am often met with these words, this won't work for us. Sometimes you have to think beyond the obvious. Think more broadly.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Activity Helps Dementia Patients Sleep, Eat and Become Less Agitated
As I was watching the video below (think swimming) and reading about this program these words jumped out at me.
“We also hope that there will be other positive outcomes such as better physical health, improved sleep and a sense of wellbeing with the added bonus of less agitation, chronic pain and falls".
Sleep, well being, agitation, chronic pain, and falls.

This is an example, I believe, where you can take the general theme and extrapolate. The general theme as I see it is activity. Activity that someone living with dementia might enjoy even if they tell you, NO, I don't want to do it.

You might think to yourself as you watch the video below, my loved one doesn't swim so this won't work for us. But as you look beyond the obvious, you could conclude that "activity" might change the way a person living with dementia thinks, acts, feels, and perceives the world.

It is clear to me that many of the problems that are common to Alzheimer's caregivers should be addressed by increased activity; and that, increased activity, at just the right time, might be a full or partial solution to a problem.

For example, I noticed that day after day Dotty would become dull, bored, "not there", and often mean spirited around 4 PM. I decided to address this issue head on.

It seemed to me that the first thing I had to do was change the dynamic. Change what we were doing around that time of day.

In other words, "get out in front of the problem". Start doing something before it happened

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At first, we started going to the grocery store at that time of day. It did help.

Later on I noticed that Dotty seemed to be happier and easier to deal with if she had large doses of bright light. Along with the bright light, I noticed that if she also had interaction this was even better. Talking to people helped. Then I had a bright idea.

Why not take Dotty to Walmart, get her in some bright light, let her drive around the store in the motorized cart (use her hands and brain), get her around people, and discuss the food, cloths, etc.

This is what I call Looking Beyond the Obvious and extrapolating out a solution.

You will notice that at first all we did was jump in the car and go to the store. With a little thought we improved on that idea by adding in more activity.

Those of you that know me well know that it is hard to call Dotty and me in the late afternoon, early evening. We are not home.

We are not home because I know if I let Dotty sit around during this period, things are going to deteriorate rapidly, and the rest of the day and night are going to be unsettling or worse.

I just don't like the look Dotty gets on her face in the late afternoon, and I couldn't stand the idea of accepting it. So, I didn't accept it.

Now if I had my wish, what I would really like to happen is for someone that Dotty knows and trusts to come over and pick her up in the late afternoon and take her out.

Pool, ice cream, Walmart, wouldn't really matter. Dotty stills likes to yak, and the just right person can get her to talk and brighten up.

That still happens on occasion, but most of Dotty's friends are afraid to take her out. It comes with the territory.

Dotty still drives the motorized cart like a champion by the way. And just so you know, years ago when we first tried this I was already thinking, she won't be able to do it.

I found this video interesting and thought provoking. I hope you will also.

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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room