How to stay healthy with dementia
Having a good routine can help people living with dementia. This is because if you have memory loss, reliable and predictable routines can reduce anxiety. You can help someone with dementia to create a healthy routine by doing the following.
- Supporting them to sleep well, eat healthy meals and exercise regularly.
- Creating visual prompts to help with time telling and daily tasks.
- Encouraging them to stay involved with housework. This can help to give someone a sense of normality and is good for self-confidence too.
- Simplifying bill payments by using direct debits, to reduce stress.
- Ensuring they take their medications on time and attend relevant medical appointments.
- Helping them to make time for hobbies or interests.
Eating well with dementia
Eating and drinking enough of the right things can really help someone living with dementia. This is because dehydration and malnutrition can worsen memory loss and reduce concentration too. Poor nutrition can also lead to diabetes and obesity, both of which can make the symptoms of dementia worse. But sometimes, dementia can make regularly eating healthy foods hard. This may be due to the following reasons.
Dementia can affect someone’s appetite
People with dementia may forget to eat, or not feel the desire to eat much or very often. If your loved one has lost interest in eating, or forgets to eat, try turning a meal into a fun activity. You could do this by involving them in the preparation and serving of the food.
Dementia can affect the way people taste food
Some people develop a sweet tooth while others prefer especially flavoursome foods. If this is the case, savoury dishes can be sweetened with concentrated fruit juice or made tasty with herbs or spices. But try to avoid adding too much salt.
Dementia can affect vision
Some dementia-related visual impairments make it difficult for people to see what they are eating properly. Because of this it may help to use a coloured plate to contrast with the table or tablecloth. This will also help pale coloured foods stand out and may encourage them to eat more.
Other tips include:
- making food look good as this will also make it tempting to eat
- if your loved one is finding it hard to use cutlery – encourage them to mirror you or copy when eating. This could also turn the meal into an opportunity to socialise
- try making a selection of visually appealing finger foods to encourage independent eating
Exercise and dementia
Exercising regularly is important for everyone. Staying active can reduce the risk of heart disease, strokes, and other chronic illnesses. All of these can make life with dementia harder. Exercise can also promote the independence and physical resilience of someone with dementia. This is because it may increase core muscle strength, balance, and flexibility. Regular movement can also improve digestion, reduce constipation, increase appetite, and promote sleep at night.
Gentle movements or chair yoga are a good place to start. If possible, try to encourage outdoor walks, swimming and other safe activities which are enjoyable. Seek advice from a doctor if you have concerns about someone’s mobility or ability to exercise.
How to provide emotional support to someone with dementia
Dementia can increase the risk of mental health issues. This is because it can be distressing to forget things, and people can miss out on parts of life they used to enjoy. Sadly, depression may go undiagnosed and untreated when a person has dementia. But there are several strategies which can help. They include:
- cognitive stimulation and reminiscence therapy
- listening and being supportive
How to stay healthy as a carer
Being a carer can be exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Supporting someone close to you with dementia can be particularly upsetting due to the issues involved with memory loss. So, it’s extra important that you take good care of yourself to avoid burnout and other health problems.
Try to ensure you share caring tasks with other people where possible. This could be with another relative, a family friend, or through a formal social care service. This can help to reduce the burden of caring for someone on your own. Your local council can help you put in place additional care support for your loved ones.
Aside from this you could also try to:
- prioritise eating well, moving regularly, and getting enough sleep
- speak to someone if you are feeling overwhelmed or exhausted
- make time for enjoyable hobbies and socialising
- attend a support group for other carers where you can share your experiences and help each other
- take a break – plan periods of time where you step away from caring for someone and enjoy some quality rest and relaxation, if possible