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Improving Quality of Life for Individuals with Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Despite ongoing research across the globe, the number of people living with Alzheimer's disease and dementia continues to grow. According to current statistics from the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 5.1 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s and a new case is diagnosed every 66 seconds.

Based on these numbers, it is likely each of us or someone we love will be impacted by this devastating disease. Although a cure or method to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s has yet to be discovered, research has pointed to a number of interventions that can help improve quality of life for individuals living with the disease.

Mental and Physical Stimulation
Providing individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia opportunities to engage in activities they enjoy is an excellent way to promote both mental and physical stimulation. Although these activities have not been shown to reverse the disease, research does indicate they may slow progression and improve behavioral symptoms for some people. Examples include arts and crafts, games, and listening to music. Caregivers can introduce activities at home, or may choose to explore adult day care centers or memory care programs, which can also provide much-needed respite time. No matter the activity or setting, it is important to remember that Alzheimer’s affects behavior and senses in addition to memory, so activities that a person once enjoyed may become overwhelming or even frustrating now.

Opportunities for Socialization
Often individuals with Alzheimer's and dementia are confined to the home most of the time, and this can lead to feelings of isolation and depression. Numerous studies have shown that regular interaction with others can help manage depression and related behaviors. Because many individuals with Alzheimer’s do not respond well to crowds or large group settings, opportunities to interact with others in small groups are preferable to large public outings. Small family gatherings or memory care programs that work with individuals in small groups have been shown to be most effective.

Preserving Independence
Interviews with people living with Alzheimer's reveal that often the most frustrating and depressing aspect of the disease is the loss of independence in performing activities of daily living. These activities include the ability to bathe, dress, and cook independently, as well as the ability to express themselves clearly with spoken language. Various therapies, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy, can help individuals regain some of the skills they have lost, while facilitating home modifications and obtaining adaptive equipment to promote independent living skills. Therapy is available both in the outpatient and in-home setting, and is most often covered by insurance with a physician’s order. 

Renee Smith is Executive Director of Day Kimball Healthcare at Home, which includes Day Kimball HomeCare, Day Kimball HomeMakers, Hospice and Palliative Care of Northeastern Connecticut, and the Memory Lane Café, a non-medical partial day program for individuals with dementia.

Related Resources

Integrated Care: In-Home Care
Day Kimball HomeCare
Day Kimball HomeMakers
Hospice & Palliative Care of Northeastern Connecticut
Memory Lane Cafe


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