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Ways to Support Holistic Health in Patients With Dementia

Ways to Support Holistic Health in Patients With Dementia

Submitted by Guest Contributor:
Amanda Winstead

As a dementia caregiver, the well-being of your patient or loved one is of utmost importance. Their physical and emotional health may be harmed by this illness. One of the best ways to support them is with a holistic approach to their overall care.

Unfortunately, healthcare today is often silo-based. With the right choices, you can provide more integrated support for the health and wellness of your person living with dementia.

Healthcare Silos and How They Can Harm Patients

Traditional medicine typically functions in healthcare silos. Doctors often operate in disconnected specialties. For example, a patient receives wellness checkups from a general physician but must see numerous providers for other issues.

If your patient has complications caused by diabetes, they may be seeing a range of specialists for kidney disease, nerve damage, and cardiovascular issues. Without proper communication, these visits can be disjointed. This disjointed treatment can overlook or miss health problems, especially if the patient cannot advocate for himself.

A better way to treat dementia patients is with holistic care.

Avoiding Silo-Based Care With a Holistic Approach to Health

With the right tools, caregivers can ensure that their patients are treated holistically. This view treats the patient’s care overall as part of a whole, rather than sending them to disconnected specialists. When the team works together as one, patients benefit in many ways.

To accomplish this, caregivers and medical providers have many tools at their disposal, such as electronic health records. Another option is to appoint a care coordinator who can oversee the patient’s overall care, ensuring everyone is on the same page.

You can also choose a holistically focused doctor to provide care — and that includes specialists. For example, if a patient requires a vein expert, this doctor should do a complete evaluation. A well-rounded vein specialist may locate the source of the problem even if it is not a vascular issue.

Treating dementia patients holistically can bring about better outcomes for their total well-being. Caregivers can be an integral part of this.

Helping Patients Live Well With Dementia

Dementia causes many challenges but it’s possible to live well with dementia if proper steps are taken. Jonathan Graff-Radford, M.D. and Angela Lunde, M.A. of the Mayo Clinic have written a guide targeted for both patients and caregivers. Consider this book as a resource for helping your patient.

As a caregiver, you too can take a holistic approach to improve their quality of life. Here are some ways you can do this.

Happy senior with daughter
Courtesy Pexels

Helping Dementia Patients Manage Their Stress

One of the top struggles for dementia patients is the stress that comes with mental decline. Fear and anxiety are common as patients struggle to understand what is happening to them. Caregivers should help their charges reduce their stress:

  • Discover the source of any stress outside of worries about mental decline. If there are factors in their lives causing anxiety, do your best to remove them or manage them to make it less challenging.
  • Be sure that your patient gets enough sleep. You may need to consult his physician if insomnia or other sleep disturbances are a problem.
  • Change the environment to be more calming. Soothing paint colors, warm lighting, and even nature items, such as a potted plant or a landscape painting, can provide a more calming atmosphere.
  • Teach them some relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation. You can also play soothing music to relax them.

Stress is not always just a matter of environment or circumstances. Proper nutrition can also help improve mood.

Healthy Eating for Dementia

Today, research shows that food can impact behavior, stress, and mood. Many Alzheimer’s patients have nutritional deficiencies as well. A well-rounded diet, full of healthy and pleasing food choices, is best to help support brain health. It also provides robust nutrition to support good physical health.

Some food choices that may provide nutritional support for dementia patients include:

  • Their diet should contain a variety of fruits and vegetables for essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Dementia patients also need some foods rich in mega-3 fatty acids, like salmon or flax seeds. These have nutrients that support a healthy brain.
  • Talk to a doctor or nutritionist about potentially adding supplements to support any nutrient deficiencies.
  • Avoid processed foods, refined sugars, too much caffeine, and other unhealthy choices. These contribute to diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and other health issues, as well as mental health problems like depression or anxiety.

Smart food choices support good health but equally important is ensuring your patient gets enough exercise.

​​The Importance of Physical Exercise

While many elderly patients may struggle with movement, a healthy body requires exercise. In concert with their doctor, you can help your patient by choosing home exercises that slow the spread of dementia. Movement is critical for maintaining physical connections in the brain that can slow the spread of memory loss. It also helps keep patients motivated and happy.

Some exercise options include:

  • Short walks on level terrain. Be sure to keep patients protected from the sun.
  • Low-impact aerobics.
  • Stretching exercises.
  • Dancing!

Be sure that your charge is exercising a few times a week, when possible. Physical exercise is a must but mental exercise is just as critical.

Brain Stimulating Activities for Dementia Patients

The adage of “keeping active” is not just for your body. Dementia patients can benefit from activities that stimulate the brain. These may improve mental function and potentially slow memory loss or other mental declines.

Memory Joggers on Memory Cafe Directory
Memory Joggers Recall Activity

These will not cure dementia but they do provide much-needed engagement. Patients that are bored and inactive are at risk for depression and other mental health problems. Some simple activities caregivers can do with their dementia patients include:

  • Memory and matching games
  • Puzzles including crosswords and jigsaw
  • Sudoku
  • Bingo
  • Card games
  • Arts and crafts

A holistic approach to health and well-being helps dementia patients. Ensuring that all their health care providers are functioning as a unit while tending to both physical and mental health is critical to helping them live well.

Amanda Winstead

Amanda Winstead Memory Cafe Directory
Amanda Winstead

Amanda is a writer from the Portland, Oregon area with a background in communications and a passion for telling stories.

Along with writing, she enjoys traveling, reading, working out, and going to concerts. If you want to follow her writing journey, or even just say hi you can find her on Twitter.




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