Alzheimer’s Patients Thrive with Activity, Socialization and Love

 

By Lisa Moore

As many as 5.3 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Every 70 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s and it is the seventh-leading cause of death.

There is no concrete cause or cure for this progressive disease that robs people of their faculties, identity and independence. But through the various stages of Alzheimer’s, life can be greatly enhanced with stimulation, activity and socialization.

People suffering from Alzheimer’s can do much more than most people believe. Their quality of life can be determined by the sum of the special moments created for them. Simple activities and interaction can bring happiness and joy.

The rule of thumb with Alzheimer’s disease is “first in, last out.” Memories from early in life fade away last, so activities, conversation or music that correlate to the past may benefit someone with memory impairment because they trigger thoughts of long-ago experiences and stimulate the brain.

The old saying, “use it or lose it” is true for brains and muscles. Lynn Ivey is the president of the Ivey, an adult day care facility in Charlotte. She says that memory loss can sometimes be associated with loneliness, hearing loss, isolation and depression. 

“When someone is moving, both physically and mentally, it increases a person’s sense of well being, which can help with memory,” states Ivey. “It provides a sense of purpose for life when there are meaningful and purposeful activities in which to participate and anticipate.” 

A recent study indicates that moderate activity allowed seniors with Alzheimer’s who were living in a nursing home to boost stamina and better carry out everyday activities. They showed slower physical deterioration than sedentary peers and performed better on tests measuring walking, strength, balance and flexibility.

Ivey says her facility offers everything from gardening, poetry readings and horseshoes to arm chair aerobics, pet therapy and puzzles. Spending time in adult day care has helped a number of her clients come out of their shells.

“Many come in so reserved, they may not have talked in a while.  Once they’re comfortable, happy and moving, initiating conversation happens more often here and at home. They become more outgoing. Recently, a new member started with us very unhappy that she was being ‘left.’  Within three visits, her daughter can’t believe her change -  she’s now going to activities with her Sunday school class, something she had not done in quite awhile.

At Legacy Heights Memory Care Facility in Ballantyne residents enjoy activities involving music and rhythm. A familiar tune can get them clapping their hands, singing out loud and dancing around the room. Activity Program Director Tom Sharp bangs out oldies on the piano for Name That Tune and also presents questions for music trivia.

“No matter what kind of music our residents grew up with, they can enjoy it again,” says Sharp, who has been working with Alzheimer’s patients for nine years and seniors for forty. “Music can open pathways to thinking.”

Something that we all can do is to make those with memory impairment feel better is to touch them. Holding your loved one’s hands or massaging his or her feet, legs or arms can ease anxiety, depression and agitation and alleviate feelings of loneliness or abandonment.

Even if the one suffering from Alzheimer’s can’t recognize you or communicate verbally, your touch is a means of love and reassurance to their soul that grounds them in present time and space.

For more information visit www.theivey.com or legacyheightsseniorliving.com.

Lisa Moore loves to sing, dance and play with her mom and other residents at Legacy Heights Memory Care.

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