Social and physical activity critical for those with dementia

Social and physical activity critical for those with dementia

Being physically and mentally active can help those in the early stages of dementia.

In fact, studies suggest clear benefits for those who exercise and continue to engage socially, says Dr. Darren Gitelman, neurologist and senior medical director of the Advocate Memory Center.

“There is no doubt that keeping social and active is key to doing better overall with this diagnosis,” says Dr. Gitelman. “Those individuals who don’t hide their condition and continue to be connected to the community are also more likely to work together with their caregivers on a successful care plan.”

As a result, an increasing number of health care providers are offering specialized programs designed to keep seniors engaged and active. One such class is ‘Expressions,’ which is offered Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill.

Elaine Berg was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 77, and ever since she’s been attending the class her daughter Laurie Berg says she has seen an amazing difference. Class activities include art, dance, gardening, fitness and discussion of current events to promote socialization and support.

“These types of programs with structure are not only good for dementia patients, they are good for caregivers,” says Dr. Gitelman. “It can be extremely difficult planning the day for someone with dementia. Caregivers can feel better knowing their loved one is spending the day in a supportive and social environment, and not just sitting in front of the television set.”

Laurie Berg agrees.

“For my mother, going out socially and interacting with peers has given her a sense of purpose and belonging – it is her motivation for getting up every morning,” she says. “Instead of feeling isolated and alone with her diagnosis, she has found other people in her age group that are struggling with the same ailment. They support each other, but they really don’t dwell on it. “


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About the Author

Evonne Woloshyn
Evonne Woloshyn

Evonne Woloshyn, health enews contributor, is director of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. Evonne began her career as an anchor and reporter in broadcast news. Over the past 20 years, she has worked in health care marketing in both Ohio and Illinois. Evonne loves to travel, spend time with family and is an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan!