Swimming And Dementia: How Are They Interrelated?

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Imagine the sea waves crashing gently on your feet as you embrace the saline breeze while
gazing at the pinkish-blue horizon. Or, imagine yourself floating on the lukewarm water in a
pool. Feels relaxed, doesn’t it?

According to scientific research, being near or in water has therapeutic and healing qualities for
mental health. Especially for patients with dementia, swimming can be a way to rewind and
relax. As scientists and medical practitioners unravel more benefits of swimming for people
living with dementia, senior care facilities are adding swim classes by the minute to their
calendars. Not only does swimming offer a low impact form of exercise for patients with
dementia, but it also gives them a chance to socialize with the same group of people every week.

Read on to know more about swimming and how it can improve the quality of life for people suffering from dementia.

1. Swimming improves Socialization Skills 

The primary reason for dementia among older adults is isolation. Most people diagnosed with dementia lose their ability to communicate with others when experiencing advanced memory loss. They often resort to anti-social behavior as a defense mechanism. Moreover, since most often, dementia is paired up with schizophrenia, withdrawing into a self-made cocoon can accelerate things for the worse.

This is why care facilities are beginning to introduce swimming as a part of scheduled social hours. This allows patients to gather at the pool to enjoy the company of people they haven’t met earlier. Since water makes the ambiance more relaxing, patients find it easier to socialize and communicate with others on the same boat with them. This exchange of problems and solutions with each other can often bring out better solutions than medication.

2. Swimming improves Memory Skills

For patients experiencing early signs of dementia, the phase where the memories keep coming back and then start fading can be scary. Research has shown how light exercise can improve an older person's motor and memory skills. And when we talk about light cardiovascular exercises, yoga and swimming are what the doctors mostly prescribe. Swimming sessions can improve their cognitive abilities, which would help them retain and reminisce about their past.

Moreover, scheduled swimming hours will inevitably improve a person’s physical health, thus helping patients stay more active. A recent study has shown how taking a dip and staying in water for a long period can improve blood flow to the brain. With a better heart rate and blood circulation, a patient gets a better supply of oxygen and nutrients, thus having a positive impact on brain health.

3. Swimming provides a Break from Stress

While cardio and aerobics can help you relieve stress, swimming is a more effective way, thanks to the presence of the soothing touch of water. Being in water can help a person loosen up his or her body and mind. Moreover, with patients of dementia, half the cure is in deviating them to focus on other things. When someone is immersed in water, they are more likely to pay close attention to the technique of not sinking. Additionally, the rhythm of the swimming strokes also has a relaxing and meditative effect on the mind.

A scientific study conducted on rats has shown how swimming can generate new brain cells in parts of the brain that have been plagued with cell deterioration due to chronic stress. The process is called hippocampal neurogenesis, and the possibilities are that swimming has the same effect on the human brain, as well.

4. Swimming lowers Depression and Anxiety

Every 2 in 5 cases of dementia find roots in depression and anxiety. Regular swimming sessions for even half an hour can reduce incidences of depression. Swimming also has positive impacts on a person's sleep patterns. Since swimming, like other cardiovascular exercises, releases endorphins, it promotes a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing among patients living with dementia.

Moreover, for people showing early signs of dementia, swimming has led to an improvement in self-worth by 30%. With better memory, focus, and concentration, patients have been able to achieve better satisfaction in life.

5. Swimming serves as Low Impact Exercise

The more we say about the boon that exercising is, the less it will be. However, high-impact exercises like jogging and sprinting can be hectic for senior patients. However, swimming can be great for older people with deteriorated health of their joints and limbs. Due to being a strength training exercise but with low resistance from the water, swimming sessions let senior patients improve their flexibility.

Isolation can be a hard thing to battle and depression can become overwhelming for people living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. However, getting seniors to be up and moving can be quite a task. Since swimming deciphers to more of relaxing and less of exercising, this sort of exercise may not be overwhelming for them. The patients are more willing to put their best strokes in the water rather than taking a jog in the park.

6. Scheduled Swimming Sessions lead to Better Organization  

Humans love operating in a routine because that helps them stay organized. Scheduled swimming hours give a patient, who is otherwise barely preoccupied, a fun activity to look forward to. A routine helps them stay active and social. Moreover, swimming sessions serve as activities that are mentally stimulating.

Patients in senior care facilities without a proper routine barely have things to do every day, which leads to a sense of detachment, stemming from isolation. Allowing the patients to pick activities they want to engage in, gives them a sense of belonging and a chance to live how they want.

7. The color Blue has Healing Powers

Although not a hard scientific fact, there is plenty of research evidence that suggests that the shade blue has powers of mental healing. Blue (pale blue tones, in particular) is a soothing color and being in blue spaces affects us mentally, by keeping us calm and aiding better concentration.

The hue of blue is mostly associated with water and the color of the endless sky. It is a proposed theory that since two of the earth elements are blue, many people feel drawn towards water and that being near a water body can have a soothing influence on the mind.

8. Swim hours offer Caregivers a Break 

Taking care of an elderly person experiencing memory loss can be an overwhelming task that can often take a mental toll. To boost an employee’s morale, care centers are arranging for social events that give patients a chance to be normal and on their own, so that the caregivers can let their hair down a bit.

Since the primary motive of swimming hours is to empower patients with dementia and give them confidence, they reduce the sense of responsibility of caretakers. These hours also provide them with their support network and an opportunity to take a break from caring.

Summing up,

From better cognitive and motor skills to enhanced life quality; the benefits of swimming are countless. This is why more and more care facilities are adding swimming to the daily schedules of elderly residents living with dementia. These ‘water hours’, as they call it, allow the seniors to socialize and stay active, which is essential for battling memory loss.

Caring for close ones suffering more chronic memory loss can be an exhaustive task. But the next time you feel at sea, let the person find solace in the very water that you are sinking in. The tables can turn to make a savior out of the distressed. The person may help you come up to the surface – you never know!

Author Bio: Shirley Brown is a certified therapist for patients with Alzheimer's and Dementia. She is also a counsellor for the assignment help site MyAssignmenthelp. In her free time, she loves to write insightful blogs on mental distresses and wellbeing.

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About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

2 Comments

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