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How Dementia Affects Physical Health
When you know someone who has been diagnosed with dementia you’ll notice not only a deterioration in their mental health but, unfortunately, also their physical wellbeing too.
Dementia is a progressing, chronic disease, which mainly affects the elderly. The main manifestation of the latter disease is the impairment of cognitive function. This includes forgetfulness, learning difficulties, problems with the judgmental and analytic way of thinking. On top of that, people diagnosed with dementia are experiencing issues regarding behavioral and emotional expression. About seventy percent of dementia cases are attributed to Alzheimer’s disease. 1
What are the Symptoms of Dementia?
The effect of dementia on the health of the individual differs from person to person. However, in the majority of cases, three main symptomatic stages are described: 1
The patient experiences mild cognitive problems. He or she becomes more forgetful and develops problems with orientation.
The symptoms of the “Early stage” progressing. On top of that, patients develop various communication problems. Also, they need someone to help while performing routine activities. In this stage, behavioral changes become visible.
This is the terminal stage of dementia. People diagnosed with dementia have serious, inevitable cognitive impairment along with physical inability.
Dementia-Associated Physical Changes.
As I mentioned before, dementia-associated physical changes will continuously develop. So, it is essential to recognize those symptoms and to know how to live with them.
Your beloved ones may start to experience difficulties while doing usual activities such as walking, seating, and standing. Soon, they will need someone to assist them. Moreover, now they have a higher risk of falling and/or to develop various types of injuries. That is why some patients prefer to move rarely, which lead to bedsores acquisition proceeded by inflammation and pain. So, you need to prevent the bedsore development, and if you were unable to do that, make sure to contact a general practitioner or a nurse.2
How Should You Deal With Physical Changes?
The positive impact of physical activity among those diagnosed with dementia has been scientifically proven. It has multiple advantages for those diagnosed with dementia. Being physically active will help to prevent disease progression and decrease the severity of present symptoms. First, cognitive abilities will improve. Second, patients will need less (or will not need at all) help while doing everyday activities. They will become more independent. Moreover, it is a great chance to gain new friends in case of practicing a physically active lifestyle in specific groups. The latter will help to overcome emotional and behavioral problems as well. Overall, it is clear that the quality of a patient’s quality of life will be improved.3
Early Stages of Dementia.
For those, who are at their early or middle stages of the disease, various types of physical activities are recommended. The list includes: dancing, walking, and even swimming. It is important to know that on average, thirty minutes of physical activity is a must.4
If the patients are unable to move independently, thus to be physically active, it is strongly recommended to contact an occupational therapist, which will help both to perform some beneficial movements and to choose different types of equipment that will ease the patient’s life. 2
Middle and Late Stages.
When patients are at their late stage of dementia, they still need to do some small exercises. For instance, one of the conducted studies found that even twelve-week chair-based exercises may increase the well-being of a person suffering from dementia by improving their emotional status.3
Interestingly, scientists claim that in order to improve the overall well-being of the patient, you need to ensure that they spend enough time with dogs. While playing with the animal, the anxiety level drops down and people feel happier. 5
Help Yourself to be Able to Help Others.
It is important to mention, that if you are taking care of a patient with dementia, you need to practice self-care as well. Make sure that you are emotionally stable. Find some time for holidays and parties. Try to replace yourself with someone else who can take care of your beloved one while you are taking some rest.6
In summary, dementia leads to visible physical changes among those diagnosed with it. These changes are even more obvious at the later stages of dementia. However, there are various coping methods that will help both to improve the disease manifestation and prevent the upcoming dementia-related health consequences.
1. Dementia. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/dementia. Accessed November 2, 2019.
2. Mental and physical activities in the later stages | Alzheimer’s Society. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/symptoms-and-diagnosis/how-dementia-progresses/mental-and-physical-activities. Accessed November 2, 2019.
3. Bowes A, Dawson A, Jepson R, McCabe L. Physical activity for people with dementia: A scoping study. BMC Geriatr. 2013;13(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2318-13-129
4. Exercise in the early to middle stages of dementia | Alzheimer’s Society. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/daily-living/exercise/early-middle-dementia. Accessed November 2, 2019.
5. Klimova B, Toman J, Kuca K. Effectiveness of the dog therapy for patients with dementia – a systematic review. BMC Psychiatry. 2019;19(1). doi:10.1186/s12888-019-2245-x
6. Dementia | Mental Health Foundation. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/d/dementia. Accessed November 2, 2019.