Falls can be an inevitable part of living with dementia, as it is associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities. The risk factors of falling are greater as the condition incurs problems with mobility, balance, and muscle decline. People living with dementia often find difficulties with processing what they see and how to react to situations. The use of medication may also cause effects such as drowsiness, dizziness and lower blood pressure which may in turn cause a fall.
If someone living with the condition is having issues with their mobility, then it is important to remain physically active and get the right support. Staying physically active has shown to help delay and reduce some mobility problems associated with dementia.
Some people with dementia may have participated in regular exercise over the years whilst others might have exercised very little. It is important to take into consideration the age, type of dementia the person has and their abilities when deciding which physical exercise is best to partake in.
We would recommend those who have not taken part in regular exercise for some time and those with other health issues to seek medical advice. Whether it is through a GP, physiotherapist, or other healthcare professional before beginning a new form of physical activity.
It is important to choose activities that are suitable for the person and that they find enjoyable. Exercise can be done individually, with one-to-one supervision or in a small group. Some people may like to try a few different activities to see what suits them best.
Gardening is a great physical activity that provides the opportunity for a person to get outdoors! The level of activity can also be varied dependant on a person’s abilities. A person who requires a low level of exertion could weed or prune, whereas if more strenuous exercise is wanted then raking or mowing the grass.
These sorts of activities can help strengthen the body’s muscles and improve breathing and is an enjoyable activity for people at all stages of dementia.
A person living with dementia can benefit from a regular programme of seated exercise sessions at home or with a group. It is recommended to see these exercises demonstrated at least once by an instructor or on a video.
Here is a video of a seated exercises program for persons with dementia demonstrated by McCormick Care Group:
These exercises are aimed at building or maintaining muscle strength and balance are less strenuous than exercises in a standing position. They can be part of a developing programme, with the number of repetitions of each exercise increased over time.
Swimming, under supervision, is a good activity for people with dementia and many find the sensation of being in the water soothing and calming. Some studies have also shown that swimming may improve balance and reduce the risk of falls in older people.
Walking is suitable for all activity levels as the distance and time spent walking can be varied. Some organisations and local leisure centres arrange group walks supported by a walk leader.