The clocks go back this weekend, but it’s still important for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and dementia to get outside and stay active

Once the clocks go back, it can be very tempting to stay at home for most of the day, especially when you don’t have to go out. If you care about someone with dementia, you may even think it’s wiser for them to stay indoors when it’s colder outside.

But whilst the urge to protect vulnerable loved ones is understandable, hibernating at home may not be in their best interests. Why? Because natural daylight has some impressive powers, helping to boost health and wellbeing and even improving sleeps patterns.

People with dementia often have trouble getting to sleep; the condition can disturb the body’s circadian rhythms, which control sleep patterns. They may also find themselves waking more frequently during the night, creating confusion and agitation.

However, doing activities outdoors which will allow them to soak up natural daylight (even if it isn’t sunny) will keep the person you care about remain more in tune with the natural day and night patterns. And if the activities they do outside also happens to raise their heart rate a bit – a walk or some gardening for example – it has even more benefits; helping to boost mood and strengthen muscles, which can, in turn, aid mobility and reduce the risk of falls.

Natural daylight can also help to reduce caregiver stress and is generally considered a great way to recharge the batteries. So if you’re a caregiver, don’t forget about your own needs too - getting out and about could be just as good for you.

Did you know?
Studies have shown that nature provides one of the most reliable boosts to mental and physical wellbeing – and you don’t have to live in a rural idyll. Exposure to trees, the sky and birdsong in cities can also be beneficial for mental wellbeing.

Stuck for something to do? Here’s 4 easy ideas to inspire you

Gardening – collecting leaves or weeding are good activities and raised beds are ideal for people with mobility problems.

Feeding birds and being with pets – think ducks at the park, or even a local animal rescue centre. Simply being around cats and dogs can bring many people pleasure, even if you can’t take one home with you!

Walking and talking – even if it’s only a walk to the shops, this can help to reduce social isolation and provide cognitive stimulation.

A visit to a park or garden centre – being surrounded by greenery is great for boosting mood.