Fall River Jewish Home

Activities and Alzheimer’s – They do Mix!

Remember as a child you used to play the game of Simon Says? This is a wonderful game to play with your elder, and it can provide both cognitive as well as physical exercise. You can incorporate shoulder shrugging, head and fingers movements in your game of Simon Says.

It is important for all of us to get both physical and mental exercise, it is also important for someone with Alzheimer’s to exercise for overall health and improvement in mobility and cognitive functions. In fact, studies have shown that doing light exercises can reduce wandering, aggression and agitation that can be part of Alzheimer’s symptoms. Please keep in mind that each person is different and the type of exercise should be individualized according to their abilities. So, just as with any senior, it is always a good idea to contact their doctor to get approval before starting any type of physical activity.

Start with walking because this is one of the easiest types of exercise to do and you can combine a cognitive activity with it as well. First, make sure that you or someone else is available to walk with your elder during the entire time. If walking outside is not a possibility, try walking with them around the house while showing them different objects such as a vase with flowers in it or a picture of someone that they know – possibly a close family member, or themselves as a child – while asking them who that person is or what they remember about them. Keep in mind that long term memories are the last to go, so this is an excellent cognitive activity, as well as an excellent physical one.

  1. If walking is not possible for your elder with Alzheimer’s, there are other types of exercises that may work well for them – like Simon Says. And, you can adjust your movements to their level – make it easy or a little bit harder – it is up to you.
  2. Another great mental and physical activity is singing. If you know someone that plays a musical instrument – a piano or guitar perhaps – invite them to play some tunes from your elder’s era. The music will bring them joy and a connection with good memories they have associated with the songs. And, singing is an excellent exercise for their lungs because it requires one to take deep breaths in order to sing.
  3. You can also engage them in chair exercises. Both of you should sit in a chair and face each other – make sure you have some distance between you to be able to move freely and easily. Put your arms up over your head and ask them to mimic your movements. Put your arms forward and again ask them to do the same. Continue starting at the shoulders and, if possible, end with movements with your legs. Always make sure your movements are easy for them to do and only require one movement rather than 2 or three movements, otherwise they may become confused.

Even though someone has Alzheimer’s they still need to get regular physical and mental exercise. If they are living at home they can engage in walking, music, reminiscing, Simon Says and chair exercises. However, many Alzheimer’s senior communities have both cognitive and physical exercise programs as a part of their daily activities. It is very important for an Alzheimer’s patient to remain active both physically and mentally because studies have shown that this slows the progression of the disease and gives them a better quality of life.

What other ideas on other types of physical or cognitive activities have done with your elder? Please share them here. It is very important for us to learn from each other what works best to keep our elder loved ones healthy in mind and body.

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