The Health Benefits of Time Outdoors
When someone you love or care for is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, it is a common reaction to want to keep that person as safe as possible. This means keeping an extra eye on them; ensuring they do not get hurt or do anything that could hurt themselves; and potentially keeping them indoors to prevent them from wandering. While your intentions may be good and your heart may be in the right place, as a caregiver, it’s important not to deny certain experiences just because of an Alzheimer’s disease or dementia diagnosis. Keeping your loved one from participating in certain activities, such as going outdoors, may seem like a good idea, however it can lead to feelings of depression or agitation. It can also prevent certain health benefits that can greatly increase quality of life.
According to Amy Dukes, Memory Care Liaison at AHAVA Memory Care Residence, a Memory Care Center of Excellence in Pittsburgh, PA, keeping a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia indoors can actually be quite detrimental to their health. “As Alzheimer’s or dementia progresses in your loved one, it can seem harder to take them outdoors for some sunshine and fresh air. If they get agitated around a lot of people or uncomfortable and confused about their surroundings, it can be difficult to ensure their safety,” Amy states. “As a caregiver, you may be tempted to cut outings short or to stop taking your loved one outdoors at all, but we want to remind you that spending time outdoors can provide your loved one with some added health benefits that you may have not considered previously.”
Not only does the great outdoors bring comfort and joy to those who enjoy being in tune with nature, but it has a multitude of benefits for those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The outdoors also provides an array of physical, psychological, and social benefits that could help defray some symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, according to the Unforgettable Foundation.
Physical Health Benefits
Those with dementia, as well as their caregivers, can greatly benefit their physical health by being outdoors. These benefits, according to the Unforgettable Foundation, include improved sleep, diet, and awareness. Getting exercise outdoors can improve memory and verbal expression, as well as activity and exercise levels.
Psychological Health Benefits
Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia often suffer from high-stress and agitation. Going outdoors can allow for mood enhancement, can lower stress levels, and can lift spirits, according to the Unforgettable Foundation. Getting outside can provide your loved one with a “stronger sense of self” and allow for “more control,” which can greatly improve your loved one’s self-esteem, confidence, and happiness.
Social Health Benefits
Spending time outdoors with your loved one also can help them to feel less lonely and isolated. This is because by being outdoors, your loved one will have access to the possibility of increased social interaction. Being outdoors gives more opportunities for social encounters.
“It’s important to remember that your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia may not be able to handle a lot of activity all at once and that you may need to start small,” says Amy. “Make sure that you make any outings as safe as possible while not restricting your loved one too much. For example, stay close to home, but make it fun. Make sure that they are wearing comfortable shoes, the right clothes based on the weather, and pay attention to whether or not they are enjoying the experience. If they are not, try again another day, or see what it is that they would like to do.”
Ways to Soak Up the Benefits of Time Outdoors
As many of the activities that seniors participate in can be done indoors or outdoors, try to take some of them outside. Try incorporating some of these outdoor activities into your loved one’s daily routine.
- Gardening. This is not only a relaxing thing for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia to do, but it also keeps them active and their minds focused. There is something about connecting with the Earth and tending to something that really connects with those with memory impairments; it really increases confidence and establishes a sense of purpose. Even better, gardening lets seniors soak up some vitamin D and remain physically fit.
- Exercising. Go on a walk with your loved one through the park or courtyard. Take in the scenery and focus on how the sun or breeze feels. Try doing activities such as tai chi or yoga outdoors, as these activities calm the mind and allow for better sleep at night.
- Eating. Pack a picnic with some easy-to-eat treats for you and your loved one. Sitting down on a blanket and relaxing in the sunshine can help your loved one really take in all of the benefits of the outdoors. This can help your loved one by encouraging them to eat even if they have a decreased appetite.
- Playing games. Take some board or card games outside and play them on the patio. Games and puzzles are known for keeping minds sharp, even in spite of dementia. Being outdoors also has the ability to increase concentration and memory, which can even significantly increase their chances of winning the game or successfully completing a puzzle.
- Reading. This is also an activity that can help to keep minds sharp and exercise the brain. Sitting outside with a cup of tea and a good book can help your loved one get the most benefit of the outdoors, even if they are not able to be physically active.
Getting Outside with AHAVA
“At AHAVA Memory Care Residence, we understand the powerful health benefits that getting outdoors can have on those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia,” says Amy. “This is why we ensure our residents get outdoors in the safest ways possible. Our community is equipped with two intentionally designed and enclosed courtyards which allows our residents to go outdoors at any time and walk our safe paths that reach multiple destinations. We are also outfitted with a comfortable porch with cues to make sure our residents know that they can come out to relax and socialize, but are cued back into their home.”
To experience our community designed for living, we invite you to call us at 412.521.8295 or visit us today.
AHAVA Memory Care Residence . . . For the Love of Seniors
The Jewish Association on Aging’s new AHAVA Memory Care Residence is the only Memory Care Center of Excellence in Pennsylvania certified by The Hearthstone Institute. At AHAVA, we provide the proven approach of Hearthstone’s life-enriching I’m Still Here® programming within a warm and comfortable atmosphere. With the Hearthstone approach, the expertise of our caregivers, the support of our community, and a purposeful design for those with memory loss, AHAVA Memory Care Residence is Pittsburgh’s premier resource for Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
The choice to partner with The Hearthstone Institute came from the desire to provide truly unique and specialized memory care programming to our residents. As a recognized leader in the field of Alzheimer’s care and founder of The Hearthstone Institute, Dr. John Zeisel’s philosophy and approach deeply aligns with ours – to create nurturing environments where those living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss can flourish. We have created an atmosphere of hope for our residents and their families – a place where everyone cares for, respects, and loves one another.
Built with purpose and love, and designed for living, AHAVA Memory Care Residence is more than just a place to be cared for – it’s a place to experience joy. Our personalized memory care program, delivered within a licensed assisted living community, provides the dignified assistance that’s needed, along with the lifestyle, services, and amenities that are desired.
Please contact us today or call us at 412.521.8295 for more information or to arrange a personal tour.