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Alzheimer’s Awareness: The Power of Staying Active

Health care professionals unanimously agree that exercise is an important part of good health. Even if you just take a brisk walk every day, you get the blood circulating and lower your risk for cardiovascular diseases, strokes and other ailments, and generally increase your well-being. The same largely holds true for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. While it’s important to take precautions for the person’s safety, staying active is a powerful component maintaining health and quality of life through the stages of Alzheimer’s.

There’s an old adage that says what’s good for your heart is good for your brain—so getting the heart beating and the blood circulating is like fuel for your brain. That’s why Bethesda’s memory care communities incorporate activities into the day-to-day lives of our residents with Alzheimer’s. Whether it’s a walk through one of our tranquil garden areas or a stimulating social meetup among friends, we plan activities that will benefit our residents body and soul.

Here are four ways to think about staying active with Alzheimer’s:

1. Get some exercise. Someone with Alzheimer’s may not be go jogging or lift iron, but someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s can do a lot to stay active, from Tai Chi to water aerobics. As the disease progresses, help will eventually be needed on those walks, but even someone in the later stages of Alzheimer’s will benefit from some type of movement, especially if it means getting a change in scenery. In our memory care communities, we will take care to hold someone’s hand and keep them steady—but encourage them to get physical for as long as they are able.

2. Stimulate the brain cells. An old-fashioned crossword puzzle, a Sudoku in the daily paper, a new-age “Words With Friends” or a trip to the local library can be just as important to good health as a brisk walk or Tai Chi session. There may not be a cure for Alzheimer’s yet, but activities that keep the brain working can do wonders for a person’s quality of life—in every stage of life.

3. Listen to the music. Long after you hang up your dancing shoes for the last time, music still has therapeutic effects, particularly on people with Alzheimer’s. A jazzy tune, a soulful croon, or something with a big band beat can help keep you young at heart and light in spirit. Many of our memory care communities incorporate music therapy as part of our Alzheimer’s and dementia programs.

4. Maintain an active social life. Social activity will vary depending on what stage of Alzheimer’s a person is in, but there is ample evidence that visits with friends and loved ones help keep the mind sharp. Not only does social activity help stave off dementia, it might even help slow the decline. While scientists have much to learn about the brain and why social activity is so powerful, we’ve all experienced the release of dopamine—the brain’s feel-good chemical—when we re-connect with friends and family.

At Bethesda, we try to foster a community where everyone gets to know each other by name, and people make new friends among residents and our teams. We care about each other, and are here to promote an active lifestyle for everyone in our communities.