From Guest Contributor: LifeCare Advocates

In a study recently reported by National Public Radio and posted on LifeCare Advocates’ blog, the positive effect of even small amounts of exercise and activity were shown on the aging brain, including those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s-type dementia.

As care managers, we are constantly assessing and monitoring ways to improve quality of life for our clients and their families, finding ways to support our client’s independence and recommending resources and services to assist our clients in living their best life. It is important to us to not only provide our clients the care and support they require for their physical and medical health, but to support them in aging well!

As is alluded to in this study, people with dementia (and/or mental health challenges in our experience) are often unable to continue important parts of their daily routine safely, or at all. Many factors impact this, including impairments in memory, organization and initiation skills, depression, and the client’s adjustment to their changing abilities.  Some people will be aware of and frustrated by this lack of ability; others may lack insight into their limitations, and either cease the activity or continue it in an unsafe manner.

Care managers can recommend “tried and true” ways to assist our clients and their families in maintaining or regaining these important routines, such as recommending ways to provide the structure and support to recover the activity, exercise or engagement that may have been lost.  We might recommend a companion or other outside professional to engage with the cliento offer strategies to bring joy back into the missing activities.  A companion could help clients with the tasks they are challenged by, support them in identifying activities they can still do, and provide a structure to the day that has otherwise been missing due to lack of activity and/or ability.  For example, we have had clients who have taught their companions to bake a beloved recipe and assist them in preparing meals. We have connected clients with wonderful caregivers that support them in playing games, attending community center activities, taking walks, going to museums and concerts, etc., all of which the clients were unable to do on their own.  With this newly supported activity, the aging brain can remain active and engaged, and the individual has a renewed sense of purpose which is critical to our wellbeing as we age.

Care managers also may recommend a more structured living environment such as assisted living, where clients have their own living space, but also have ready access to restaurant-style meals, assistance with personal care and/or medication management, and most importantly an array of activities and opportunities for spontaneous social engagement within the structure of a scheduled day.

We fully encourage our clients and their families to continue to engage in activities and exercise that they have enjoyed in the past or that may be a new experience to maintain and improve their quality of life.  If you would like to learn more about our services, please call us at 617-928-0200, or check out our website and Facebook page, www.lcadvocates.com.