How Physical Therapy Improves the Lives of Alzheimer’s Patients
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, so there’s no better time to expand your awareness of the disease and learn about available treatment options to ease symptoms.
As background information, Alzheimer’s typically develops in patients over the age of 65. Thus, it’s not uncommon for other symptoms of aging to accompany this condition. For example, patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (or a related form of dementia) are more vulnerable to hip fractures than others. They can also be more likely to experience related injuries involving falls or broken bones. These two reasons make it important for patients to continue doing exercise that stretches muscles like the hip flexors.
That’s why physical therapists often play very important roles in the lives of Alzheimer’s patients. With physical therapy for Alzheimer patients, there are many potential benefits for the patient. One of them is enjoying a greater degree of independence for a longer period of time than they would without professional assistance. But why is this important?
Physical Therapy for Alzheimer’s Patients Prolongs Independence
For many, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is devastating, even if it isn’t you that has it. As memory goes, certain tasks and activities become almost impossible. For this reason, finding ways to keep patients in their homes for as long as possible is recommended. This isn’t always possible, since there are those that simply cannot care for themselves. However, there are ways to ensure that this diagnosis doesn’t always mean the end. Here are some examples of ways that physical therapy exercise for Alzheimer’s patients helps.
- Home exercises make it possible for people to exercise in a familiar location.
- Physical therapy is traditionally done without others. For Alzheimer’s patients, family members and loved ones may sit in on sessions. This means they can learn how to supervise and perform them, too.
- Ensuring that patients are breathing properly while exercising and throughout the day means that there is little chance of patients becoming lightheaded, overtired, or potentially slipping and falling.
- For those with failing memories or lack of recall, short, to the point exercise routines exist
While Alzheimer’s Awareness Month 2018 is certainly a good opportunity to focus on the disease, it’s also important for patients to know how to manage the condition year-round. The following are other key reasons an aging Alzheimer’s patient (particularly one who has been recently diagnosed) should seek the help of a physical therapist:
Balance Training for Preventing Falls
Aging people often fall in situations where they lose their balance. Luckily, with a proper physical therapy program for Alzheimer’s symptoms, they can learn how to more effectively regain their balance in such a situation. This isn’t only while standing or walking, it may also be useful when patients are participating in sports, exercises, or even simple day to day activities.
Physical therapists use a variety of tools and techniques to safely reenact the circumstances patients would experience prior to a fall. Through practice, they develop the ability to better prevent such a fall from occurring. Stopping an injury before it happens is the goal in this scenario. Keeping the body limber (for example, with exercises similar to those recommended for pregnant women) allows patients to focus as well as strengthen.
Physical Therapy Exercises Can Slow Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s Patients
Studies have shown that regular exercise can slow the decline of cognitive function and memory.
However, patients with Alzheimer’s may need help learning how to exercise in a way that is safe and comfortable for them. This is where physical therapy for Alzheimer patients can be especially valuable.
The body of an aging person is typically more fragile than that of someone younger. That means certain physical activities may not be advisable. Physical therapists can evaluate Alzheimer’s patients and design exercise programs to fit their needs and abilities. For example, while those with Alzheimer’s may have been quite active, strenuous exercises and full-contact sports like hockey and football are not recommended. The same goes for cold-weather sports and activities like skiing or running outdoors. In the colder months, there are plenty of safe and simple exercises that can be done indoors.
According to a study, regular physical activity may even reduce “gray matter shrinkage” in the brain. That simply means there is genuine physical evidence that the connection between Alzheimer’s and physical therapy can be a positive one for helping to slow the progression of the disease.
Unfortunately, patients with Alzheimer’s often experience depression as well. This is another area in which physical therapy for Alzheimer patients can help.
In one study, patients with dementia were separated into two groups. One group received only medical treatment. The other was provided with both medical treatment and a physical exercise program. When the study concluded, it was found that patients in the second group experienced lower rates of depression than patients in the first group.
Focusing on the body is one of the most important things an Alzheimer’s patient can do. This means finding ways to strengthen the core, to keep muscles moving, and to stay efficient at home or at work for as long as possible. Time will pass – and the condition will worsen – but those that are proactive sooner have a better chance of prolonging this. Exercise efficiency is something to consider, but so is being mindful and being prepared to make adjustments.
Embrace Alzheimer’s Awareness Month as a Time to Strengthen the Body
Physical therapy programs for Alzheimer’s patients serve two purposes. They maintain and even improve overall strength. This has two major benefits for patients. On the one hand, increased strength lowers their risk of falls. It also allows them to participate in more physical activities. On the other hand, if they do slip or fall, they’re less likely to be injured if their bodies are strong.
Now is the time for Alzheimer’s patients to participate in strength-training exercises. Just make sure to consult with a physical therapist first to ensure accuracy and safety!
Each of the above is one of the many reasons to provide Alzheimer’s patients with physical therapy. The right program can simply have a major impact on their quality of life. It may also have a positive effect on their behavior, helping loved ones cope as well. The more time you spend with loved ones, the more time you have to remind them of their previous years. Yoga sessions, swimming, cycling, lifting weights… no matter what exercise you choose, it has benefits.
It doesn’t have to be Alzheimer’s Awareness Month for you to get more information about Alzheimer’s and physical therapy.
Consider the above. The more proactive you are, the more holidays you’ll have with your loved ones. Time is what many people wish for when it comes to families, and physical therapy exercise for Alzheimer’s patients makes it possible.
Find a physical therapist today using the BetterPT clinic location tool website or BetterPT app to learn about how it can improve your condition or that of a loved one. Since caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is commonly more difficult than with other conditions, consider using the BetterTelehealth platform. This ensures that you or your loved one get the care and compassion deserved during physical therapy sessions without sacrificing quality.