Fran Vandelli, Dementia Lead at Bupa Care Services gives advice on the Top Five Chores Proven to Stave Off Dementia.
It is estimated that 920,000 people are currently living with dementia in the UK – a number expected to almost double to 1.6 million within the next 20 years.
While chores might seem boring, they actually play an important role in keeping our minds and bodies sharp – reducing our chances of developing dementia and helping those with a diagnosis live well for longer.
With over 120 care homes and 10 retirement villages, Bupa is one of the UK’s leaders in dementia care. Here Fran Vandelli – Dementia Lead for Bupa Care Services – shares the top five chores to help stave off dementia:
1. Making (and sharing!) a pot of tea
Some evidence suggests that social isolation is linked to an increase in the speed of cognitive decline. While further research is needed, it’s important that we stay social as we age as it provides a vital sense of purpose.
As well as maintaining our social skills, staying hydrated will defend you from UTIs and constipation. Both of these can cause delirium, intensifying the symptoms of dementia.
As with photographs, sharing memories with friends and loved ones can also help keep our minds sharp, whilst reducing the risk of depression.
Removing trip hazards is important for all older people, as our balance and sight decrease with age. It’s particularly helpful for those with dementia who can struggle with their sense of depth or perception, putting them at higher risk of falls.
Sadly, injuries like hip fractures can reduce people’s mobility, social ability, mood, and confidence, all of which can lead to depression, which can mimic or exacerbate the symptoms of dementia. Anaesthetic, used in surgery, can also have a short-term effect on our memory – called post-operative cognitive decline.
Given people with dementia may struggle to find things, decluttering makes it easier to find what they need – helping them stay independent for longer.
It also creates opportunities to reminisce and collect together emotional and historic mementos, like photographs which can provide a useful aid for family, friends, and carers. Reminiscence draws on long-term memory – usually a strength for people living with dementia – which can give people a sense of competence and skill and also encourages communication.
Exercise is one of the best things we can do to reduce our chances of developing dementia. Mopping is great cardio, with an hour burning off up to 170 calories – equivalent to 15 minutes jogging on a treadmill!
Cardiovascular exercises are particularly good for preventing vascular dementia – a common form triggered by a lack of blood circulation in the brain. While we can’t cure vascular dementia, leading a healthy lifestyle with enough exercise can help reduce the risk or at least slow its progression.
Lack of exercise can also increase the risk of diabetes, which can also amplify the symptoms of dementia. Vigorous mopping can also protect us by building our core strength, keeping us stable and reducing our likelihood of falls.
Staying active in the kitchen is a great way to retain skills and help prevent cognitive decline. It helps us cut down on processed foods which can be high in salt, sugar and fat, leading to poor cardiovascular health and increasing our likelihood of developing diabetes, which studies have shown can increase the risk of dementia1.
For people living with dementia, cooking and baking can be good way to get enjoyment – retaining those important feelings of purpose and independence.
Not only is this good exercise but, having access to a well-maintained, safe outdoor space can help reduce feelings of anxiety or stress – which are commonly associated with dementia.
It can help people manage depression, which can exhibit similar symptoms to dementia such as difficulty concentrating, disturbed sleep, confusion, and memory lapses. As a result, depression can make the symptoms of dementia seem worse.
If redesigning your garden, mitigate trip hazards by using flat surfaces, such as paving or decking, and installing handrails if needed. Make sure pathways are kept clear from plants and furniture to ensure the route around the garden is clearly visible.
Some studies have shown that warm-coloured plants – like reds, oranges and yellows – are most easily distinguished for people with visual impairments.
1 Kassaar, O., Pereira Morais, M., Xu, S. et al. Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor is subjected to glucose modification and oxidation in Alzheimer’s Disease. Sci Rep 7, 42874 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep42874