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3 Recreational Therapy Interventions To Improve The Lives Of Those Living With Alzheimer's Disease

September is World Alzheimer's Month, which is dedicated to spreading awareness, information, and challenging the stigma around dementia on a global scale. Approximately 5.7 million people in the U.S. currently have Alzheimer’s disease and the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s is projected to triple to 16 million by 2050. Worldwide about 50 million people have some form of dementia, and someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds.

With these statistics, it is glaringly apparent the need for education, and de-stigmatization around dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Those living with these brain changes deserve to live fulfilling lives, filled with compassion, leisure, and love -- meeting them where they are and creating programming that focuses on their abilities, not their deficits. Below are three interventions that EmpoweRT implements with clients living with Alzheimer's to improve physical, cognitive, social, and emotional well-being and quality of life. Though there are no "catch all" programs that assist those living with brain change, there are certain programs that can help minimize the secondary components of these diseases such as isolation, depression, and anxiety. All leisure programming is person-centered and tailored to each individuals needs, and interests, not strictly their medical diagnosis.

  1. Therapeutic Gardening

Planting is a good way to relieve stress. It can also create a sense of accomplishment and purpose for the patients. If done with other people, gardening can foster belongingness and a sense of community. It’s a good way to help maintain skills while exercising the mind and body. Gardening has an array of benefits such as increasing time outside which lends to happier attitudes and life outcomes, along with being able to focus on specific motor skills by watering plants, planting flowers, and enabling choice of tasks. According to The Alzheimer’s Society, “exercising in the garden helps develop an appetite, boosts energy levels and promotes a better night’s sleep. Maintaining, as far as possible, existing skills that give pleasure and confidence.”

2. Household Task Skill Building

It has been studied that many of those living with Alzheimer's and other dementia's also struggle with low self-esteem, having them participate in daily household tasks can make them feel empowered and independent. Folding clothes, linens and towels, for example, is a good ways to assist in cognitive skills like organization, step by step instructions, and allowing clients to feel a sense of accomplishment and independence that is many times taken away or done by someone else. Having recreation therapy programming surrounding household chores allows for families of clients, and clients themselves to feel more at-home, more in control, and touches on an array of developmental skills while improving those self-esteem components. Working on household tasks, is a great way for families and caregivers to get involved in meeting their loved one with brain change where they are and not doing everything for them. Doing tasks together leads to higher socialization, empowerment, and cognitive retention.

3. Therapeutic Yoga

It has been stated by the Alzheimer's Association that individual's should participate in both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities to assist in decreasing falls, maintaining balance, and the correlation between heart health and brain health. Studies have generally shown that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease experience positive effects of regular exercise. A study showed that a home-based multicomponent exercise program with a caregiver that combined aerobic, strength, and balance training resulted in improvements in executive function compared to a control group. Though cognition cannot improve with physical fitness, it can delay or slow increased cognitive decline. Yoga is a strengths based exercise that utilizes all of these approaches (aerobics, strength training and balance training) and can be tailored to fit any individuals needs or abilities. Yoga has been shown to decrease stress levels, increase motor skills, and improve overall health and bodily functioning, which in turn can lend to positive life outcomes, and may delay more severe cognitive decline.

Alzheimer's and other dementia's have been steadily increasing in older adults across the United States and the world for many years and it is impertinent that healthcare professionals and caregivers understand ways to improve the lives of those living with these brain changes. By hiring a recreation therapist to work with your family member, it allows for creativity, leisure in their daily lives, decreased isolation, and improvements in an array of wellness domains. Let's work together to improve the lives of those living with brain change by booking a consultation with us today.

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Feb 19, 2022

Recreational Therapy offers a multitude of opportunities for those who, at the moment, have no other recourse for assistance in getting on with living a full life. This program is the answer to many prayers.

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