Written By: Toni Patt PT, DPT, GCS, NCS

When I was asked to write this blog, I planned to write about the effect of memory loss on the families and loved ones of dementia patients. Then COVID-19 arrived and we entered a brave new world. To prevent the spread of the virus, the country shut down and now, I’m seeing an unintentional consequence; the functional dementia patients are declining.

Older adults are the most vulnerable group. Federal mandates have put facilities who take care of older adults on lock down as these have been virus hot spots.  Only staff and medical providers are allowed to come in and residents can’t leave. At my facility, our dining room is closed.  Our activity staff spends the day manning the nourishment cart. Many of the residents don’t leave their rooms and those that do must wear a mask. 

People with dementia don’t adapt to change well.  They like routine because they lack the cognition to process change. Also, having a routine cuts down on behavioral outbursts. During this pandemic, it is important to provide stimulation and exercise to keep patients mobile. Exercise and cognitive stimulation are two tools we use to slow the decline associated with the disease.  Staying in their rooms practically eliminates both for our residents. However, any form of exercise or stimulation will help keep your patients alert and active. Here are some unique ways to help keep patients stimulated:

  • Walking around the facility 
  • Dancing to music
  • Work on puzzles 
  • Create art 
  • Play games like Dominoes or cards 
  • Socialize with others (but make sure to social distance!) 
  • Yoga

  • Resistance band exercises (examples below) 

When working with patients with dementia, its always a challenge to return them to baseline. Cognitive decline seems to accompany physical decline.  The country is slowly starting to open up but not nursing homes. Even once these facilities open, older adults remain at high risk. The rules governing us in nursing home facilities and home health, will be among the last to relax.  Until that happens, people with dementia will continue to be the highest risk.

Interested in learning more about how to treat patients with Dementia? If so, check out Toni Patt’s course, “Evidence-Based Assessment and Treatment of Dementia,” here: https://summit-education.com/c/GDEMTP.1


Front Row with Elizabeth and Ed. (Director). (2019, May 15). Over 60 and self-quarantined? Do these 5 exercises DAILY [Video file]. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ0G5x5hI28 

Sneakers, S. (Director). (2017, October 24). 7-Minute Yoga Workout for Older Adults [Video file]. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDLad2vOHkU 

With Meredith, S. (Director). (2019, February 10). Senior Fitness – Resistance Band Exercises for Seniors [Video file]. Retrieved June 1, 2020, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZP9FKXGoBg8