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Staying healthy with dementia
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.
- Help the person take part in their usual activities and interests. Be prepared to adapt them or try new things as dementia progresses
- Adapt social situations so they are easier to manage – for example, if the person finds large gatherings difficult, meet friends and family in smaller groups
- Explore meaningful activities that provide purpose and enjoyment, such as volunteering, art, craft, photography, exercise, writing, learning a language, dance or gardening
- Join dementia support groups and clubs like day centres, music groups and Memory Cafés – ask your GP for information
- Encourage the person to find companionship and a sense of belonging through spending time with family, friends, pets or volunteers
Make sure the person with dementia:
- attends any regular screening checks recommended by their GP, such as blood pressure checks or breast screening
- takes medication as prescribed, and attends medication reviews
- sees their GP if there are changes in their physical or mental health, memory or concentration
- has an annual flu jab, if it is offered
- goes for regular dental, hearing and eyesight checks
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)
- Tai Chi
- 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
Worrying about the future can have a big impact on our quality of life, so planning ahead for what might happen may give you peace of mind.
Try to address things like:
- What sort of health and social care the person would prefer in the future – you can do this by making an Advance Care Plan
- Who will make decisions on the person’s behalf if they can no longer do so themselves. The best way to do this is with a lasting power of attorney
- How they can maintain their independence, including what support might help them stay at home for as long as possible, and how they will manage if they have to stop driving
- The importance of making a Will
Please see Sources of support below for more information on all of these.
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.
If you would prefer to pre-book a phone or video appointment with an Admiral Nurse, please visit dementiauk.org/get-support/closer-to-home/.
Dementia UK resources:
Life Story work
Managing anxiety and depression in a person with dementia
The emotional impact of a dementia diagnosis
Changing roles and relationships
Dealing with stigma
Making the home safe and comfortable for a person with dementia
Good sleep habits
Lasting power of attorney
Advance Care Planning
Eating and drinking
tide: together in dementia everyday
Independent Age: helping older people maintain their independence
DEEP: a network of dementia support groups
Young Dementia Network: for people with young onset dementia, their families and friends, and professionals in the field
Mind: the mental health charity
How we can support you
Whether you have a question that needs an immediate answer or need emotional support when life feels overwhelming, these are the ways our dementia specialist Admiral Nurses can support youGet support
Publication date: August 2020
Review date: August 2022