Living a healthy lifestyle can improve your loved one’s quality of life and may help to slow the effects of dementia. Positive lifestyle changes for dementia sufferers include:
- A healthy diet
- Meaningful activities
- Mentally stimulating activities
- Regular exercise
- Social interaction.
Healthy Eating: An Important Part of Dementia Care
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008), research shows that individuals who eat a diet that is rich in vegetables, particularly green, leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (i.e., broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) exhibit the slowest rates of cognitive decline. A healthy, well-balanced diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat sources of protein and whole grains.
Meaningful Activities for Those Living with Dementia
Living with dementia can rob your loved one of her independence and sense of self-worth. Meaningful activities can help to give her a sense of peace, security and some measure of power over her life. They also help to engage her mind, her interests and her skills. The definition of what is “meaningful” is different for every individual, but some activities may include:
- Going for a walk outside
- Listening to music
- Playing with a pet.
Mentally Stimulating Activities to Slow the Effects of Dementia
Studies suggest that mentally stimulating activities may help to slow cognitive decline in those living with dementia. Some researchers believe that mental exercises may help to encourage the growth of connections in the brain. Mental exercises may include doing word puzzles, learning a new skill or dialing the phone with your opposite hand—anything that encourages your loved one to give extra thought to what he’s doing.
Lifestyle Changes for Dementia: Physical activity
Experts believe that physical exercise not only reduces the risk of dementia, but also offers a number of benefits to individuals already living with dementia. Regular exercise may help to alleviate some of the effects of dementia by improving overall health, reducing feelings of stress and depression and supporting brain health.
Social Activity for Those Living with Dementia
Many scientists believe that social activity may stimulate the brain in the same way that mental exercises do. However, your loved one may try to isolate herself because she feels embarrassed by her condition. Encourage her to continue to socialize as part of her dementia care. If she is easily confused in a crowd, small, low-key gatherings can offer her the positive social interaction she needs.
American Health Assistance Foundation. (2011). Healthy living. Retrieved January 10, 2011, from http://www.ahaf.org/alzheimers/livingwith/healthyliving.html
Alzheimer Society of Canada. (2005). Living with Alzheimer’s. Retrieved January 10, 2011, from
Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. (2011). Alzheimer’s therapeutic activities. Retrieved January 10, 2011, from http://www.alzinfo.org/alzheimers-treatment-therapeutic.asp
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). Alzheimer’s disease: Unraveling the mystery. Retrieved January 10, 2011, from http://www.nia.nih.gov/NR/rdonlyres/0FA2EE06-0074-4C45-BAA3-34D56170EB8B/0/Unraveling_final.pdf