Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Physical Side of Alzheimer's Disease

We often write about the cognitive and psychological sides of Alzheimer's Disease and other dementia because they are the most prevalant and because they are disorders and diseases of the mind. But the brain controls our other functions and as Alzheimer's takes its mental toll, it also creates more physical limitations since the mind-body connection starts to deteriorate as the disease progresses. This makes everyday living more difficult and increases the risk of life-changing falls.

In yesterday's Washington Post, a reader asked about mobility issues and was told of a survey that demonstrated why an exercise routine is important  after a diagnosis. The research involved 210 patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer's who lived in their home with a spouse.

"One group exercised at home with the help of a physiotherapist, with the exercises tailored to each person’s specific needs and abilities. The others exercised in groups of 10 at an adult rehabilitation center day-care program, with a mix of endurance, balance and strength-training exercises supervised by physiotherapists. The non-exercisers were given advice by nurses on nutrition and exercise.

"After a year, physical abilities had deteriorated in all groups, but the decline was slower among those who exercised, especially those who exercised at home, than it was for those who did not exercise, based on standardized scales. Also during the year, more falls were recorded for those who did not exercise than for those who did. The authors noted that less physical decline means less need for help day to day."

One reason we do daily, structured physical fitness exercises, modified for our participants, at each of our centers is to help with fall prevention and even keeping their legs and arms flexible enough so that changing clothes is not a serious ordeal. It's also a lot of fun with a group.

It takes work, and our centers are more than happy to help our caregivers with this responsibility. Do not choose the path of least resistence when it comes to exercise well into the progression of a disease.

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