How to Stay Active During Coronavirus
Welcome back to Dementia Q&A where we answer your questions about dementia in just about five minutes with as little medical jargon as possible. I’m Dr. Marc, an internist and geriatrician here in Louisville, Kentucky.
This week’s question is: How do I stay active during this time of coronavirus, both for myself and with my loved one with dementia?
It’s a great question, so here are several tips to help.
Maintain Your Routine
It’s important to try to maintain your routine as much as possible. If you or you and your loved one with dementia typically get up in the mornings, get dressed and groomed, have breakfast and then go out, it’s important to continue doing all of those things. Even if you can’t necessarily get out the door, get up and get ready as if you are. Remember, people will dementia are often stronger and clearer in the mornings and problems often set in during the afternoons and evenings. So, maintain those routines in the morning as much as possible.
I know it’s difficult to do in the house, but try to stay active and ambulate by getting in as many steps as humanly possible. Get creative and push aside some furniture to make room to move around, like enough for a little bit of dancing, which we’ll get to later.
But if you are able to get out the door, do it! Go for walks because even 3000 to 4000 steps once or twice a day makes a big difference. Walking outside stimulates circulation, maintains muscular strength, and keeps the lower extremities moving. (Plus, experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of spring is good for the soul!) Coronavirus is not an excuse to pretend we’re relaxing on the beach for a couple of weeks or to become couch potatoes. We don’t want to become lethargic because that would be extremely counterproductive.
Music is a Must
If you’ve not already brought music into the home and into the life of your loved one with dementia, the time is now! Take advantage of online programs and software packages to discover music from every era. The music of your loved one’s youth provides a powerful link to prior experiences that are often very uplifting and can have a deeply meaningful effect on their mood and outlook, even for those with severe dementia. So, incorporate music as a standard part of your day.
Shall you dance? Yes, you and your loved one should! Everyone, even those who are wheelchair-bound, can dance to some degree by moving their arms, legs and shoulders. You can move the wheelchair around and be their dance partner. I realize that as a caregiver, it might feel a little strange, but it’s time to make that part of your exercise routine. Besides, being a wallflower is no fun.
Attend Organized Activities Online
The professionals that run the outside activities that you and your loved one routinely attend, like singing clubs, arts and crafts, or exercise classes, will deliver them through video to the public online. Many of them will even keep their normal scheduled times, like arts and crafts at the library every Thursday at 11:00.
Reach out to them and ask about their plans. It might take them a few days to get it all set up, but rest assured many of them are working very diligently to do just that because they deeply care about the population they serve.
Fortunately, we are in an age where the internet offers fantastic video tours of historical sites – think Rome and Athens – and museums across the globe. Imagine visiting the San Diego Zoo or taking in the breathtaking magnificence that is the Grand Canyon.
We all know technology is great when it works, but if you have difficulty with it, don’t give up! Reach out to a loved one who can troubleshoot from afar – they don’t have to be physically there to help. Take the next several days to figure out how to tap into these resources.
Lots of our younger folks use video calls with their peers all day long. Some of us who are a little bit older, don’t tend to do that quite as much, but using video for phone calls will be really important in the next several weeks. We’re all going to feel a bit cooped up because of what’s happening outside, so being able to see your siblings, your children, and your grandchildren is going to be extremely meaningful. Consider having brunch, dinner or a celebration with family members through a video call and maybe you can show them you and your loved one’s new dance moves!
I hope some of these ideas around how to stay fit, active, engaged and to maintain some semblance of your routine over the next several weeks is useful as you navigate the current crisis.
Thanks so much for taking care of your loved one with dementia or taking care of yourself. I’ll see you next time here on Dementia Q&A.