Staying healthy, active and socially connected can help people with dementia live as well as possible, for as long as possible. Read on for advice on how to support the person you care for with a healthy lifestyle.
If you or someone close to you is diagnosed with dementia, it’s natural to worry about how the condition will develop and how it will affect your life, now and in the future.
The good news is there is evidence that people living with dementia can remain healthy for longer – mentally and physically – by being active and socially engaged and taking good care of themselves (with support where necessary).
The tips on this page will help to improve quality of life for the person with dementia and those who care for them.
Physical exercise is important for everyone, and can help people with dementia maintain and improve their mental and physical health.
They could try:
walking or jogging (with a companion if they are vulnerable when going out alone)
tennis, badminton or squash
team sports like netball or football
group exercise classes like aerobics or gym classes
Make sure that any physical activity suits the person’s abilities and current fitness levels, and is safe with any health conditions they might have – ask their GP or the person leading the activity for advice.
Support the person with dementia to eat a healthy, balanced diet. The NHS Eatwell Guide explains the basics of healthy eating: nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/the-eatwell-guide/. Our guide to eating and drinking with dementia also has lots of useful advice – see Sources of support, below
Encourage them to drink 1.5 litres of fluid daily (not alcohol)
Suggest that they avoid alcohol – if they do drink alcohol, they should not exceed 14 units per week
If the person smokes, support them in stopping – their GP can offer advice and recommend support groups
Encourage good sleep habits – see Sources of support for information on sleep and dementia
Focus on the person’s strengths rather than the difficulties caused by their dementia
Take steps to make their home dementia-friendly to help them maintain their independence
Help them create a ‘Life Story’ – a record of their life that will help the people around them (including health and care professionals) focus on them as a person, rather than just their diagnosis. See Sources of support for more information
Consider trying sensory stimulation to help the person relax – you could use music, aromatherapy, pictures, paintings, a warm bath or shower or gentle massage
Focus on achievable daily goals, not ambitious long-term ones
If the person seems anxious or depressed, speak to their GP – they may benefit from counselling or, in some cases, medication
If you would like to speak to a dementia specialist Admiral Nurse for advice on staying healthy or any other aspect of dementia, call our free Helpline on 0800 888 6678 (Monday-Friday 9am-9pm, Saturday and Sunday 9am-5pm) or email email@example.com.