Mom and I walked in the rain today. It was a light rain, and as we ambled along, we sang rain songs. It felt good to be out, and when we were rewarded with sunshine, it made the walk worthwhile.
Exercise is such an important aspect of health at any age. One study I came across suggests that increased activity levels can prevent Alzheimer’s in one in three individuals.* Regular physical activity ensures there is a steady flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain that in turn prevents the build-up of plaques—deposits of protein—which cause cell death and tissue loss.
Start walking, everyone!
Of course, there are other aspects of walking and Alzheimer’s. Studies suggest that walking difficulties are a common consequence of Alzheimer’s, and that at the three-year mark after diagnosis, “50% of Alzheimer patients reported problems in walking, and of these, 33% were classified as non-ambulatory.”**
Then there is the issue of walking aimlessly or wandering. There are many reasons why someone with Alzheimer’s may walk in a continuous pattern around their home or as if they are searching for something. Perhaps they’re bored. If this is the case, try to include them in activities that will engage them, like an art project, singing, or even folding laundry or washing dishes.
Walking might be an emotional outlet. If, for example, they are looking for their parents or their children, perhaps you can show them photos and talk about their loved ones, which might alleviate their sense that something or someone is missing. Almost every time Mom walks into their apartment, she calls out to her kids. It doesn’t help that I’m standing right next to her, or that we show her there’s no one home. Mom thinks they’ve gone out to play.
If Alzheimer’s patients wake at night and start walking, you might have to prevent them from napping during the day so that they sleep better at night. Avoid caffeinated drinks and big meals before bedtime, which may cause digestion problems. Put a large clock near their bed that shows the times.
If an Alzheimer’s patient is intent on walking, it is best not to stand in their way. Here are some tips you can employ to make your walk more enjoyable and safe:
Make sure they carry identification with them in case they get lost. (Mom wears a bracelet that includes her name, phone number and address.)
Have someone accompany them. If you can’t do it, perhaps you can involve a friend in your plans.
Try to dress them in appropriate walking attire, like boots and a coat in winter.
Create a safe place to walk in your garden.
Go out with them, and then gently distract them so that you can return home.
Mom hasn’t been out by herself in more than three years. Sometimes, though, even when we plan for every eventuality, Mom disappears. Last weekend, Mom slipped out of synagogue by herself. Frantic searches revealed she’d headed out on her own. It was such a relief when she arrived home unscathed. She’d remembered the way. I shudder to think how easily it could have ended differently.
Mom is still a very good walker. By the time we got home from our excursion today, she was tired. I’d like to think she earned her nap.
Forecasts are calling for a cold and rainy weekend. Here’s a chicken recipe that will warm your insides.
I first tasted this chicken dish at my sister-in-law’s home in New Jersey. It is a hearty and filling winter recipe, and the spicy kidney beans add a slight kick to it.
8-10 chicken pieces
1 Tbsp Canola oil
1 onion sliced in strips
3 cloves garlic crushed
3 peppers of various colors cut into strips
2 tsp cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1 12-oz can black beans
1 16-oz can spicy kidney beans
Sauté garlic and onions in oil until translucent. Add multi-colored peppers and spices and cook another 10-15 minutes. Let cool. In a bowl, mix beans and peppers. Place chicken pieces in large oven dish and pour beans on top. Bake covered for one hour at 350°. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes.