Dementia Client Living A Full Life With The Benefits of Tai Chi

There are both physical and cognitive benefits of regular Tai Chi classes for people with dementia. Case Study on Home Instead North Herts Client.

Michael is a 78-year retired Engineer, his last job before retiring was a Sales Consultant for a radio monitoring firm. He earned his degree in Engineering from Swansea University and when he was not working or spending time with his wife and two children, he went jogging daily around Hitchin. He also went swimming a few times each week.

His family first noticed a difference in him when he became a lot more forgetful and confused over everyday things. They made an appointment for Michael to see a Medical Consultant and that was when he got a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia. This was in 2017.

Today, due to Alzheimer’s, Michael needs constant direction. He gets confused in unfamiliar places, and sometimes he gets confused in familiar places too, and he is likely to wander off. His family was keen for him to keep up with his physical activities, so in 2021, they enrolled him in weekly Tai Chi classes in Hitchin. His dedicated Home Instead Carer collects him at home, they first go out to lunch or take a walk through the Museum, then accompany Michael to the Tai Chi class.

The benefits of Tai Chi have long been recognised for managing various aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and while it may not be a cure, Michael’s family have reported that Tai Chi has been beneficial to his physical and cognitive responses.

Physical Benefits

The gentle flowing movements have helped Michael maintain good mobility, flexibility, cardiovascular health, and muscle strength. The grounded movements strengthen the lower limbs to promote stability and reduce the risk of falls.

Enhanced Cognitive Function

While observing and filming Michael during one of his classes, he kept a steady focus on the directions of the instructor and kept pace with the other students. There was no evidence of Alzheimer’s to the casual onlooker. Studies published in the British Medical Journal by Mortimer et al in 2012 suggested that Tai Chi increases brain volume and cognitive function.

Increased Social Interaction

: Participating in Tai Chi classes allows Michael to have regular social interactions with colleagues and offers a sense of belonging, support, and ownership of hobbies. All participants enjoyed friendly conversations before and after class along with Michael, there was a true sense of community and familiarity among the students on the day. Clive, Michael Carer from Home Instead also said when they go to the café for lunch, they chat with many people which Michael also enjoys.
Even when Michael is having a bad day with Alzheimer’s that can affect his Tai Chi, he always enjoys social interaction, and that always keeps his spirits lifted.

Enhanced Mood and Quality of Life

The sense of calm and relaxation from the gentle flowing movements has been beneficial to Michael’s overall mood.

Michael’s family and his Carers at Home Instead have all seen the benefits Tai Chi has had on his well-being. Exercise and social interaction are extremely important for people with dementia as they often experience depression and feelings of isolation.
Some advice from Michael’s family to other families experiencing this with a loved one for the first time would be to “do as much research as possible, dementia is a minefield when you’ve had no experience of it before. Reach out to social services for help because they don’t get involved unless there’s an “incident” and you get referred”.