Physical Activity for Individuals Living with Alzheimer’s

In healthy older people, studies suggest physical exercise can improve cognition. However, until now, whether physical exercise could improve symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s, or beneficially impact the physical changes in the brain caused by the disease, was unknown.

Based on resent results released at AAIC 2015, evidence shows that exercise or regular physical activity might play a role in both protecting your brain from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and also allowing individuals to live better with the disease once they have it.

Caregivers can help people with Alzheimer’s and dementia be more active and stay safe:

  1. Be realistic about how much activity can be done at one time. Several 10-minute “mini-workouts” may be best.
  2. Help get the activity started or join in to make the activity more fun.
  3. Find time in the morning for exercise.
  4. Break exercises into simple, easy-to-follow steps.
  5. Choose comfortable clothes that are suitable for the weather and appropriate shoes that fit well.
  6. Make sure both you and the person with dementia drink plenty of water when exercising.

Some physical activities to try:

  • Take a walk together.
  • Do simple tasks around the house, such as sweeping and raking.
  • Work in the garden.
  • Play music and dance.
  • Throw a soft rubber exercise ball back and forth.
  • Lift weights or household items such as soup cans.
  • Use resistance bands, which you can buy in sporting goods stores. Be sure to follow the instructions.
  • Register your favorite physical activity (walking, gardening, knitting, playing Scrabble, scrap-booking) for The Longest Day and help raise funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association. Info at



Richmond and Tri-Cities Education Programs – January 2016


Education Programs:

The Alzheimer’s Association Greater Richmond Chapter will be offering the following educational programs to the general public during the month of January. Advance registration is required by calling 804-967-2580. More information is available at

January 7th; 6:30pm
Know the 10 Signs – Forgetfulness: When Is It a Problem?
Hopewell Public Library
209 E. Cawson Street
Hopewell, VA 23860

January 12th; 6:30pm
Healthy Habits for a Healthier You
Petersburg Public Library
201 W. Washington Street
Petersburg, VA 23803

January 14th; 5:30pm
Know the 10 Signs – Forgetfulness: When Is It a Problem?
Prince George Library
6605 Courts Drive
Prince George, VA 23865

January 19th; 6:30pm
Know the 10 Signs – Forgetfulness: When Is It a Problem?
Surry County Public Library
270 Colonial Trail East
Surry, VA 23883

January 21st; 5:30pm
Know the 10 Signs – Forgetfulness: When Is It a Problem?
Dinwiddie Public Library
14103 Boydton Plank Road
Dinwiddie, VA 23841


Caregiver Tips for Traveling with Alzheimer’s

1. Carry important documents and medications with you.
These documents should include emergency contact information, physician information, a list of current medications and dosages, and any food allergies. Also have your travel itinerary and insurance information readily available.

2. Be sure your loved one is wearing an identification bracelet.
This is especially important for seniors who may wander. If you do not have an ID bracelet for them, put their name on their clothing and be sure they have your number and a list of medical conditions in their wallet.

3. Keep surroundings as familiar as possible.
People with Alzheimer’s often have difficulty in new environments so try to bring familiar things from home on your trip (i.e., blankets, pillows, pajamas). Try to keep their routine the same to avoid confusion.

4. Limit connections and layovers.
Try to take a direct flight to your destination to avoid a tight connection, a missed flight, and further distress. Many airlines will allow you to pre-board which will give your loved one more time to adjust to their new surroundings.

5. Keep travel time to less than four hours.
If your flight or drive is longer than four hours be sure to have at least two caregivers present. Bring photos and toys to keep your loved one busy during the travel time.

6. Consider staying in a hotel rather than with relatives.
A hotel can give your loved one a calm place to go when the trip becomes hectic. They may also be able to stick to their routine better in a hotel. In addition, some family members may not be familiar with Alzheimer’s and might not know what to expect. Be sure to make the hotel staff aware of any special needs in advance.

7. Allow extra time.
Whether making a flight or driving in a car keep in mind that your loved one may need extra time to feel comfortable in their new surroundings. Be prepared to be patient with them and allow plenty of time to make travel less stressful.

8. Set realistic expectations.
People with Alzheimer’s need consistency so it is often easier to travel with someone in the earlier stages of the disease. If your loved one exhibits delusional, paranoid behavior, physical or verbal aggression, has a high risk of falling, or has unstable medical conditions, it may be a better idea to find summer fun locally.

Additional caregiver tips are available at

Holiday Gift Ideas for Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

Gift boxes

Early Stages:
• Electric coffee or teapots which turn off after a short period of time
• Day planners to keep track of appointments and special days
• Medication holders with timers which can be set to signal when doses are due
• Photo albums with names and dates next to each picture
• A Safe Return registration. It might be easier to get someone to wear the bracelet
or necklace if it is given as a gift.

Middle Stages:
• Bird feeder
• Simple-to-manage clothing like jogging suits or clothes with Velcro fasteners
• Gift certificates for a hair salon or manicure
• Music, especially older music such as barber shop, country, or oldies
• Short trips in the car
• Hand-held shower
• Bath/shower chair
• Slip-on shoes/Velcro closure

Late Stage:
• Cuddly stuffed animals
• Dolls (many women seem to enjoy a doll baby)
• Music, especially from the 30’s and 40’s and classical music
• Soft pillows and afghans
• Colorful mobiles and crystal prisms
• Blooming plants
• Hand and body lotions for a back rub or hand massage

Caregivers Wishlist:

• The gift of time for themselves!!
Offer to provide respite care a few hours a week or tie it to a specific activity such as a gift certificate for a manicure or a facial, an invitation to a movie or the theater or dinner out, with respite care provided. Take a meal with paper products
so there is no cooking or clean-up.
• Books by favorite authors
• Cassette player and tapes
• Cordless phones (useful for private conversations)
• DVDs of old-time classic movies and musicals
• Digital ear thermometer (faster and easier to use)
• Intercom, especially the portable ones that can be moved from room to room
• Exit alarms for the doors
• Cordless electric razor (safer and prevents electric shock)

Holiday Tips for Caregivers


The holidays can be tough with any family, but for caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they can be especially difficult.

Here are some tips for caregivers to help things run more smoothly so you and your family are able to enjoy the holidays:

1. Adjust your expectations of yourself, the caregiver. Only agree to take on what you can reasonably manage, and ask for help. Holidays often come with traditions and expectations from family members, but try to ask for people to be flexible. Perhaps you can ask someone else to host the holiday gathering this year.

2. Let family and friends know what to expect if they haven’t seen the person with dementia in a few months or a year.

3. If a holiday gathering is large, assign a friend or relative (or two) to be a “buddy” to the person with dementia. The buddies can take turns guiding the person with dementia through what is expected at the gathering and making sure the person with dementia’s needs are being met.

4. Try to schedule only one activity or outing a day and allow the person to rest either before or after the event. If you have an especially busy day, plan for the next day to be one of rest and relaxation for both the person with dementia and you.

5. Involve the person with the diagnosis in tasks that they can succeed in. Maybe he or she can no longer prepare the entire meal, but perhaps the person can rinse the vegetables, set the table or clean silverware and still feel included in the preparation.

6. Take time for yourself. If you have a holiday tradition that is important to you, such as attending the Nutcracker with your grandchildren, arrange for home care, so you can continue to do this tradition and have time for yourself.

7. Finger foods are great for everyone, especially persons with dementia. Have snacks on hand for the person with dementia, even if a big dinner is being planned, so he or she does not have to wait a long time for dinner to be ready.

8. Consider having a holiday-themed, structured activity prepared that the person with dementia can do with children or other adults (stringing popcorn, painting holiday decorations, making a collage) so that the person does not have to rely on making conversation.

9. During a holiday get together, it can be helpful for the person with dementia if everyone wears a name tag. This way there is no pressure for the person to remember everyone’s names. Make them colorful and fun so everyone wants to wear them!

10. Since the person with dementia’s memory and conversation skills could be limited, try not to ask too many questions of him or her, especially those that begin with, “Do you remember…?”

11. When conversing with the person with dementia, discuss what is going on in the room in that moment or make statements such as “It is so nice to see you”; “I like what you are wearing”; “Can I get you something to eat?”

12. Ask family members to bring old photo albums that the person with dementia might like to look through. Tell him or her who is in the pictures.

13. Create a quiet space that the person with dementia can retreat to if the gathering becomes over stimulating.

14. If you are the caregiver and the host, consider making the get together potluck so that you are not pressured to do it all.

15. It is common to experience more sadness, loss and feeling alone at this time of year. Attending a support group or seeing a counselor can be very helpful. Call the 24-hour Helpline at 800-272-3900 to find out more about these resources or if you need help. We are here 24/7, 365 days a year, even on holidays

Winter Tips for Caregivers


As the temperatures fall this winter, those caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia should be aware that snow, colder temperatures, and early darkness present special problems.

A loved one with Alzheimer’s won’t necessarily dress appropriately for colder weather. Cover as much exposed skin as possible and provide several layers of lightweight clothing for easy movement, especially if plans include time outside. A hat is important since so much body heat escapes from an uncovered head and don’t forget to add a scarf to cover up an exposed neck. Mittens keep hands warmer than gloves and may be easier to get on and off. Clips designed for skiers can help keep track of gloves or mittens that are otherwise easily misplaced or lost.

Sundowning is a term that refers to increased anxiety, confusion and even increased sleepiness due to the decreased sunlight in the winter months. Visual perception is already an issue for many people with Alzheimer’s and can cause increased confusion or disorientation in dark or shadowy environments both inside and out. Turn lights on earlier, open curtains during daylight hours and add bulbs that simulate sunlight. Install motion detector lights to help illuminate walkways around the home as darkness may fall before arriving home from an outing. Dressing in light or bright colors or adding reflective material to clothing will help a loved one be more easily seen.

To avoid slips and falls, make sure boots are non-skid. There are many boot styles on the market that use Velcro instead of laces to allow the person with dementia some success with dressing themselves. Try separate “tracks” that attach to the soles for added traction on icy surfaces. You can also add a sharp tip to canes for that extra grip on winter days. This device is available at home health care stores.

Assume ALL surfaces are slick and by taking smaller steps and slowing down, the person with Alzheimer’s can match gait and speed to a safer level.

– Perception problems can make it difficult for the person with Alzheimer’s to see ice on the sidewalk or realize that ice is slippery or that snow is not a solid surface.

– Keep sidewalks and driveways clear of ice and snow to make walking outside safe for everyone, but do not overuse ice melt products which can reduce traction.

– Use indoor or garage parking whenever possible.

– Especially on stairs or slick spots, insist on handrail use and walk arm in arm when possible.

– Acquire and use a State issued Handicapped placard enabling closer access to the door of buildings.

NOTE: Special thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter for sharing these tips.