New program for residents with Alzheimer’s improves physical and mental abilities
An existing balance and exercise program for older adults was adapted into a new program to meet the needs of residents with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Support from the Upper Arlington Community Foundation helped make the new pilot program possible.
UACF worked with the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging (UACOA) to successfully pilot a program that improves the health and morale of residents with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
The program, “Balancing A.C.T.” (Alzheimer’s Caregiver Training), leads participants through physical and mental exercises as well as discussions on fall-prevention techniques. In addition, trained support-group volunteers from the Alzheimer’s Association provide resources to caregivers to help ease their jobs.
“It is an honor to be part of such an innovative program that is engaging and improving lives in our community,” says Tracy Harbold, executive director of UACF.
This program was modified from another UACOA program that has been running for eight years after coaches noticed a pattern of some couples, one with Alzheimer’s and the other acting as caregiver, having difficulty completing the exercises and dropping out of the program. This problem led to the creation of a slowed-down program specifically designed for residents with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
Four couples from the community participated in this pilot program, which met once per week for six months. To track the success of the program, Alzheimer’s participants were assessed for balance, flexibility, and mobility on the first day and then reassessed six months later. Caregivers were assessed at the same intervals for satisfaction and perceived success of the program.
During the program, facilitators discovered challenges and were able to adapt the program to these as it progressed. When participants with Alzheimer’s had difficulty recreating a movement, staff modified exercises to have movements based on muscle memory. Some caregivers were unable to drive, so UACOA partnered with a local retirement community for free transportation to the sessions.
By the end of the program, participants with Alzheimer’s felt more accomplished and had several moments of lucidity with their caregivers. In turn, caregivers felt less isolated with an outlet for social interaction and were able to discuss challenges at home and receive advice from trained professionals.
“The ‘Balancing A.C.T.’ program was successful during the pilot phase,” says Amy Schossler, executive director of UACOA. “We are grateful to the Upper Arlington Community Foundation for helping us explore this new idea and pilot it in Upper Arlington.”
The program will resume in the spring, with hopes for it to expand to more residents and community partners.
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