India is home to over 4 million people suffering from dementia with the number of Alzheimer’s patients being around 1.6 million. Though Alzheimer’s strikes older people, primarily above the age of 65, the symptoms may begin to emerge early. Rare genes, environmental factors and lifestyle play a role in the early onset of this disease. While the family plays a vital role in giving support to the patient and in ensuring adherence to treatment regimens, it can get overwhelming for them as well to take care of the patients as the symptoms can get severe with time
If you start noticing any of the changes in your loved one’s behaviour that indicate towards Alzheimer’s, here is the list of lifestyle changes that you and your loved ones can make for a healthy lifestyle:
1. Daily Routine for Exercise:
Keeping regular exercise in the routine for an Alzheimer’s patient can help in maintaining their health. A small walk for 20 to 30 minutes every day taken together especially in morning tends to build self-confidence for patient and also helps caregiver in minimising his/hers physical as well as psychological stress.
Certain simple forms of yogasanas, and pranayamas can help both patient and caregivers in maintaining concentration and energy throughout the day.
2. Learning New Things:
The caregiver can assist the Alzheimer’s patient in regular reading sessions at a library. Playing an instrument or taking up a hobby can also stimulate brain and help patient relax. The caregiver along the way can also learn new things which will allow them to de-stress, or simply engage in an activity they love such as music and dance.
3. Quit Smoking and Drinking:
The caregiver must ensure that he/she and the patient have quit smoking and drinking as this can help in reducing the risks of Alzheimer’s.
4. Nutritious Diet:
Fruits and green leafy vegetables must be part of a regular diet, especially the ‘MIND diet’, which includes beans, berries, fish, nuts, olive oil, poultry, vegetables and whole grains. Cutting down on sugar, avoiding trans fats, consuming required quantities of Omega-3 fats, drinking 2 cups of tea and eating home cooked food can reduce inflammation of brain, increase alertness and protect it from quicker damage. The caregiver must also focus on ensuring a healthy diet and the right nutrition to be able to assist the patient in their daily chores.
5. Set a routine for Sleep:
Sleep patterns must be maintained as sleep disturbances are extremely distressing to the family. It’s imperative to get quality sleep as much as possible. This can help in avoiding insomnia which otherwise results in problems with memory and thinking. Sleeplessness must be avoided by the caregiver too. The caregiver must visit his/her doctor if any exhaustion or sleeplessness issues arise.
6. Treat Depression:
Depression can occur at any of the Alzheimer’s stages, and the caregiver must allow the patient to vent emotions. Getting it treated and taking regular medication for depression and anxiety related illnesses is essential to the well-being of the patient. Caregiving to a patient with frequent mood deviations is very stressful and can result in increased psychological and physical distress for caregivers. They should not lose their confidence. The caregiver should attend regular counselling sessions.
7. Social Engagement:
The caregiver must encourage the patient to regularly engage in conversation with friends and family and other such social activities that can keep the patient active. Volunteering at pet centres, joining clubs, social groups, going out for movies, gardening, visiting parks and museums, and other public places can immensely channel a stress-free life. These activities can also give caregivers some time to relax, and doing such activities together can build a well-cared for and safe environment for both.
8. Challenging Games:
Caregivers can play some brainstorming games with Alzheimer’s patients and engage them in solving puzzles, word games such as scrabble, number games such as Sudoku, card games such as a bridge or simply paint with them. This can promote their brain functioning. These activities also relieve stress from the caregiver.
9. The 5 W’s:
You must make a list of the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why; and always be prepared to answer all these questions of the patients. This list of daily experiences can be extremely handy for an Alzheimer’s patient, and aid in remembering the regular things he/she may otherwise forget.
10. Other Activities:
Deep breathing exercises and abdominal breathing, walking the dog, enhancing spiritual health, yoga, soothing baths, meditation, and prayers that assist in making the patient calm and peaceful are essential. When the patient is napping, the caregiver must engage in yoga, meditation or a stationary bike.
Changes will occur in an Alzheimer’s patient. Making positive lifestyle changes in them can lead to encouraging results. But at the same time it can be challenging for a caregiver. Hence regular check-ups, counselling sessions are essential and as caregiver one must avoid overexertion.
- Alzheimer India: http://www.alzheimerindia.org/alzheimers-in-india/
- Helpguide: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/alzheimers-dementia-aging/preventing-alzheimers-disease.htm
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