Minds in Motion – A program for People Living with Dementia and their Care Partner

The Cause

Minds in Motion® is a community-based social program that includes physical and mental stimulation for people with early to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia and their care partners. The program has two key components:
• 45 to 60 minutes of physical exercise led by a fitness instructor
• 45 to 60 minutes of mentally stimulating activities facilitated by Alzheimer Society staff or trained volunteers. (board or word games, music, arts & crafts, etc)

This 2 hour program runs for 8 weeks and is offered in a community recreation centre, Older Adult Centre or similar community centre that “normalizes” the activity for participants and exposes them to additional recreation opportunities.

Regular physical activity for people with dementia leads to noticeable reduction in depression, an increased sense of independence, and an improvement in quality of life but they are often excluded from community programs and services. Bringing together people with dementia and their care partners is an opportunity to normalize the relationship in a way that is not influenced by illness.

People living with dementia are at an increased risk of social isolation and injury associated with cognitive changes and functional decline. Early results of Minds in Motion® research are showing significant improvements in physical function and increased social networks. These are some results from our Ontario counterparts:
• 79% of participants report seeking other opportunities to participate in community programs
• On average, participants’ endurance improves by 20% and strength by 15%
• Participants report decreased social isolation and an increase in informal networks of support
• 90% of Recreation Centre staff identify an increase in their knowledge

This program is a catalyst for creating dementia friendly environments that are supportive of people with dementia and their care partners. This is also a way to help people improve their physical and mental health while building stronger social networks with fellow participants and recreation facilities.
Minds in Motion® was first developed by the Alzheimer Society of BC in 2009 and is now being delivered in many other provinces. In fall of 2017, the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories received a pilot grant from Alzheimer Society of Canada to run 7 cycles of Minds in Motion® program. These funds will allow us to run the program for a year while we seek provincial and national funding.

Who Will it Benefit?

Today, about 564,000 Canadians are living with dementia. By 2031, that number is expected to rise to 937,000, and increase of 66%. People living with dementia are at an increased risk of social isolation and injury associated with cognitive changes and functional decline. With the right support, a healthy active lifestyle is possible for people affected by dementia.

Based on evidence collected in pilot sites in Ontario, we can expect that the participants in Minds in Motion® will have improved the health and wellness. For the person living with dementia they had improved balance, mobility, flexibility and alertness. They also had increased confidence and comfort with their own situation. There is also a reduction in depression and improvement in quality of life. For care partners, the program provides them an opportunity to focus on their own health, rather than focusing exclusively on the needs of the person they are caring for. The care partner also received mutual support and learned coping strategies from other care partners. Both the person living with dementia and the care partner can benefit from sharpened mental functioning, sometimes lasting 2 to 3 days and a reduced sense of isolation.

Volunteers are a key component to offering Minds in Motion® in communities. Benefits for volunteers and the Physical Activity Program Leader or Certified Fitness Instructor include:
• Training, education, and experience will be of benefit when applying for volunteer/ professional positions in the future
• Gain front line experience working with persons living with dementia

Staff at Recreation Facility will gain benefits similar of that of the fitness instructor as they will receive training and education about brain health. Staff will also understand how to be inclusive to people living with a dementia and understand that an illness does not define a person.

Communities and the people who live there will gain valuable knowledge in understanding how to be an inclusive and engaging community for people living with dementia and their care partners.