A seniors program that combines exercise and socializing for people in the early stages of dementia and their care partners is taking place weekly at the Maple Ridge Seniors Activity Centre.
Minds in Motion is currently being offered as part of the Alzheimer Society of B.C. First Link dementia support to create an opportunity for people with dementia and their care partners to connect with others, make new friends and have fun.
First started in Victoria in 2009, the program made its way to Maple Ridge a year and a half ago.
The reason it was started, explained Kate Turnbull, Minds in Motion coordinator with the Alzheimer Society of B.C., is that there was a gap in programming for people with dementia.
“There is lots of programming that is for the person with dementia and there is programming for care givers. But not a lot that brings both together. That was the big thing,” said Turnbull.
“It’s evolved over time to be more specifically for people in the early stages of dementia,” she said.
The program starts off with 45 minutes of light exercise followed by another 45 minutes of social time.
Lori Briggs, B.C. Parks and Recreation Association supervisor of fitness leaders, heads up the fitness portion.
Briggs has specialized in seniors fitness for the last 35 years and has worked with a variety of groups including people with Parkinson’s, or stroke recovery and Osteofit.
For Minds in Motion, the exercises that are not any different than a normal seniors fitness class, it is Briggs’ patience and knowledge of dementia that makes the class unique.
If a person with dementia is getting confused she may stop the exercise early, if she sees someone getting frustrated or not being able to understand a movement, she will switch to another exercise.
Briggs has been trained by the Alzheimer Society of B.C. to recognize symptoms of dementia. She knows how to introduce exercises and is more aware about what might fluster somebody or make them more agitated.
If Briggs sees somebody kind of daydreaming and in their own zone she will say their name and suggest they try the activity being performed. If somebody doesn’t change legs or arms when they are doing an exercise she will make a suggestion that they try the other leg and if they don’t she moves on. If an activity is frustrating for an individual she will change the exercise completely for the whole group.
“I never say right or left I just say let’s take our leg and whatever leg they pick up and start with is fine with me,” said Briggs in a soft, calm voice, adding that the most important thing is that the participants feel successful.
“We want them to feel less stressed and just feel like they are part of the group and accepted. That is really important,” she continued.
Another thing Briggs does to make the participants feel comfortable is she always lets them know that if they are having a good day they can do whatever they can and if they are having an off day that it’s okay to stop when ever they want.
“It makes them feel like I don’t have to do this if I don’t want to,” said Briggs.
Briggs works the muscles that strengthen the core of an individual.
“What I try to teach are exercises that are designed to improve quality of life as well as balance and agility. Which is preventing falls and those kind of things,” she explained.
She teaches both sitting standing exercises and uses resistance bands and different sized balls for agility games such as throwing them up in the air and catching them or passing a ball around a circle.
During social time participants play a variety of games like Jenga, where you remove blocks from a tower without it falling over, the card game UNO, trivia and sometimes even ping pong.
Sometimes the games are modified slightly if there are persons in the group that are finding the games too challenging.
“Again with social time it is really about making that person feel successful, making them feel like a part of the group,” said Turnbull.
”In UNO there are all sorts of cards that do different things other than just the numbers and the colours. If I have somebody who is really struggling I will take those cards out so the game is more simplified,” she said.
Turnbull will also play a reminiscent activity with the group where she will ask them if, for example, they remember a time without car seats.
”For people with dementia the memories that normally go first are the more short term memories whereas they tend to keep their long term memory stuff from when they were kids longer,” said Turnbull.
“So those reminiscent games they tend to enjoy them because they have those memories from when their kids were young or from when they were kids themselves,” she said.
One of the great things about this program is everyone has training in how to deal with people who have dementia.
Also, Turnbull added, the care partner is also connecting with people in the same situation as themselves.
”There is a feeling of support. Even though it is not a support group, they are getting a bit of support from having other people around them,” said Turnbull.
Even if a participant does not want to participate in the activities they are also welcome to enjoy the refreshments and chat with other people.
Briggs always stays until the very end of the class even though she could leave after the exercise portion.
”I find it’s important for me so that I have that connection with them as well because I think it’s part of knowing the person’s past. I just enjoy it,” she said.
Minds in Motion takes place from 10:30 a.m. to noon every Friday except for holidays at the Maple Ridge Seniors Activity Centre, 12150 224 Street.
For more information call 604-467-4993.