Saturday 27 September 2014

How Can Yoga Help Dementia Patients (and Their Caregivers)?

How Can Yoga Help Dementia Patients?

by Camille Leavold
Yoga is a popular form of exercise that has a variety of health benefits, which have gained attention from the general public and medical professionals alike. Benefits of yoga include improved strength, flexibility and posture, improvement in balance, a reduction in aches and pains and an improvement in depression. In recent years, its potential as a tonic for memory has become known. The Annals of Internal Medicine published a study that found that healthy people who exercise regularly cut their risk of developing dementia by 30-40%. For people who do get dementia, exercising may delay the onset for several years. Because of this, activities like yoga could be helpful in maintaining the cognitive health of people with dementia.

Why Yoga is great
Elderly people with dementia living in a care facility were enrolled in a 12 week yoga training programme to assess its effect on their health. The residents who took part in the programme had:
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Lowered respiration
  • Improved heart and lung function
  • Better flexibility and strength
  • Improved balance
  • Improved range of motion in the joints
  • A reduction in depression
  • A reduction in behavioural problems.
The yoga programme benefited both their physical and mental health. This is important because people with dementia can become depressed or confused at their loss of memory. Other research shows similar findings and dementia care specialists and nursing agency staff are so impressed with the positive effect that yoga has on dementia patients that they are introducing it in assisted living facilities, nursing homes and other long term care settings.
Johanna, who does yoga with her mum diagnosed with Dementia two years ago, finds that it has many benefits. Her mother’s blood pressure has improved and it also helps with coordination and balance. She says that it also has a ‘calming’ effect, which might be due to the fact that her level of anxiety reduces after attending her bi-weekly yoga class.

Yoga for the Disabled
Yoga can also help people recover from injuries faster and sleep better and special ‘in chair’ yoga has been developed for those with physical limitations. Sometimes it is even possible to gain in height due to the stretching that yoga involves! Poses can be used to stretch and strengthen ankles, hips and hamstrings and to improve the posture of the back and reduce lower back pain. Yoga can calm the nervous system and inflammation and help prevent arthritis and rheumatism. All this can help the elderly avoid falls and other injuries commonly associated with growing older.
The physical activity and increased circulation may also have the added benefit of keeping you looking younger for longer. Regular yoga enthusiasts could look only 50 when they reach 70 (according to personal accounts). Yoga may prevent incontinence, a problem common with the elderly or sick. The special focused breathing exercises that are done in yoga classes can ease the stress that is sometimes experienced by people with disabilities including dementia. The deep breaths release tension and concentrate the mind to centre the person and help keep their self-esteem at a healthy level. Yoga is an ideal form of exercise for disabled people because complete beginners can try it and can do the exercises that they are comfortable with while still reaping the benefits.

How to Choose a Good Yoga Class
If choosing a yoga class for yourself or your loved one, you should make sure you pick a reputable class. You should ask what experience the instructor has working with the elderly and disabled. A good instructor will always ask what illnesses or injuries a person has to ensure the person’s safety. The class should be slow paced and focused on proper alignment.
You can find yoga classes at health clubs, leisure centres, educational facilities, hospitals and care homes.

Author Bio:
Camille Leavold is managing director at a leading health care assistant provider in the UK. It specialises in providing care services like dementia care support, elderly care, respite care for children, learning disability nursing and much more. She has been working in care environment since 1988. She enjoys sharing caring home tips. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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