Living with Alzheimer’s: 5 healthy habits for seniors
Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease can be rewarding and challenging. Alzheimer’s, an irreversible disease that the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America says affects 5.1 million Americans, causes difficulty with memory, thinking, judgment and self-care.
With the disease’s progression, your loved one’s abilities may change, and helping them maintain healthy habits will become increasingly more important. However, there’s hope that healthy habits can improve quality of life for seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Proper nutrition is especially important for those with Alzheimer’s disease. As cognitive function weakens, eating regular, healthy meals may become challenging. Factors like forgetting to eat, being overwhelmed with food choices and having trouble with utensils can lead to poor nutrition and weight loss, and that can lead to an increase in behavioral symptoms.
You can help boost your loved one’s daily nutrition by providing a balanced, heart-healthy diet with a variety of foods, says the Alzheimer’s Association. Offer foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean protein. Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium, and processed foods.
Leading a physically active lifestyle can have a great impact on the well-being of seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease. Regular exercise has many benefits, from decreasing the risk of disease to reducing falls, but it can also benefit the brain by improving memory, reasoning and judgment in people with mild Alzheimer’s disease.
In fact, according to research presented at last year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, regular physical activity may not only prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, but also improve quality of life for those living with the disease. Help your loved one get moving by finding suitable and enjoyable activities that are mentally or socially engaging, like walking with a friend, an exercise class or dancing.
Staying socially involved in physically and mentally stimulating activities can help seniors living with Alzheimer’s stay healthy and happy. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests that seniors who remain socially connected to friends and family can retain their brain health. Volunteering within the community has also shown to have many benefits, like increasing longevity and a sense of purpose in life, reports the Greater Good Science Center.
To keep the neurons and synapses working effectively, seniors need to keep their mind active with brain-stimulating activities, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Brain games like chess, card games, word games and search puzzles can help to maintain and improve brain health and function.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note, each year, a third of all seniors experience a fall. In people with Alzheimer’s, cognitive and memory impairment, as well as physical deconditioning, poor balance, changes in walking, poor judgment and visual misperception, can increase the risk of falling, according to a study in Neurology.
To ensure the safest environment for your loved one, encourage regular exercise to improve strength and balance and to reduce falls. At home, Dignity Health notes you can reduce common trip and fall hazards by using bright lighting, removing common dangers and installing grab bars in the bathroom.
Incorporating healthy habits is beneficial to the physical and mental well-being of people living with Alzheimer’s. Always consult your loved one’s doctor before starting a new diet or exercise program.
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