Nov 22, 2011, 12:00 PM, Posted by Elizabeth Galik
By Elizabeth Galik, PhD, CRNP, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing and a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholar
Older adults with dementia are more likely to be physically inactive, require assistance with personal care activities, and have more medical problems than older adults without dementia. There is a tendency to promote sedentary activities rather than exercise among older adults with dementia for fear that they will fall or injure themselves if they are allowed to be mobile and physically active.
Despite the gradual and progressive cognitive and functional decline associated with dementia, there are benefits to keeping older adults engaged in their own personal care and physical activity. These benefits include slight improvement or maintenance of functional abilities, fewer behavioral and depressive symptoms, better sleep, and fewer falls. A function-focused philosophy of care is designed to prevent or minimize functional decline and optimize the function and physical activity of older adults regardless of their memory impairment. It promotes the belief that all older adults are capable of and benefit from some improvement or maintenance of functional potential, even though the function may not be entirely independent, such as passive range of motion through hand-over-hand feeding, or encouragement of self-propulsion in a wheelchair.
Caregivers also benefit from using a function-focused care approach. Even small improvements in the functional performance of older adults with dementia may decrease the physical requirements of caregiving, such as heavy lifting, and also may result in psychological benefits for the caregiver, such as increased self-confidence and improved satisfaction with his/her caregiving role.