Why is it important to keep someone with Alzheimer’s active?

The biggest hurdle individuals face with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is the loss of independence. This, coupled with the physical and mental changes with the progression of the disease, can severely diminish the individual’s positive self-image and self-esteem. The combination of all these changes can lead to depression and loneliness, thus resulting in social isolation and a loss of desire to remain active.

Studies have shown that social isolation aggravates the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The individual loses interest in life-long hobbies, is unable to communicate effectively with friends and family, and generally lives in a fearful world of unpredictability. Social gatherings, inclusions in church or community organizations and even family events are extremely intimidating for the affected individual.

Sooner or later, the individual inherits a “why try?” attitude and seemingly just shuts down. This type of behavior or lifestyle after the diagnosis is detrimental to the quality of life for the individual.

Not only does the disease progress more rapidly, but premature death is related to social isolation, too. Additionally, being inactive can damage the immune system and increase inflammation, which can lead to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and other serious medical conditions.

The individual with Alzheimer’s should remain physically and mentally active and engaged during the progression of the disease. Sometimes the living situation or environment needs to be changed to reduce isolation. Does the person live alone? Is there someone at home with him/her all day that could interact with him, or are there close friends who could arrange consistent visits?

Oftentimes, the affected individual feels isolated because he feels no sense of purpose. The individual needs to find something motivating, something that he can enjoy and help build self-esteem. Caring for a pet, for example, can give the individual purpose, as well as control moods, lower blood pressure and anxiety and contribute to a sense of well-being.

Physical and mental stimulation and joy in the present moment for someone with Alzheimer’s is the right prescription for maintaining a quality of life and reducing isolation so common with the onset of the disease.

Questions about Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia disorder? Contact Dana Territo, the Memory Whisperer, Director of Services at Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area, (225) 334-7494, advice@alzbr.org, or visit the organization at 3772 North Blvd., Baton Rouge.