Too often, people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are told by their physician to come back in a year so the doctor can monitor their progress. What they are left with are many questions about a disease that currently has no cure, and uncertainty about where to turn for help.
After hearing the diagnosis, families often focus on learning about the disease or planning for the financial impact. What may be overlooked is what adjustments they can be making to keep their loved one at home longer and ensuring that the time there is as satisfying and rewarding as possible.
Occupational therapy is one tool that can supplement the physician’s care and provide step-by-step counsel to families to help them adapt as the disease progresses. An educational session, “50 Things Occupational Therapy Can Do for a Person Living with Dementia,” part of the free virtual Rocky Mountain Conference on Dementia sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association, can provide some of those answers.
Scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, the Rocky Mountain Conference on Dementia will bring together a range of medical professionals to address various aspects of Alzheimer’s disease.
How occupational therapy can help
From the perspective of the occupational therapist, there are many steps that families can take to both improve the quality of life for their loved one while making the day-to-day caregiving experience easier to manage.
“A lot of families go through the Alzheimer’s caregiving process not realizing the very real benefits that occupational therapy (OT) can provide their loved ones, and that it is often covered by insurance,” said Krista Covell, occupational therapist and owner of Covell Care and Rehabilitation.
Covell, who will speak at the Rocky Mountain Conference on Dementia, identified several of the key benefits OT can provide:
- Low-tech solutions – there are simple adjustment to the home, such as grab bars, lighting and wheelchair adaptations, that can enhance safety for the person with Alzheimer’s without making the house feel like a hospital.
- Learning how to modify behaviors – the person living with Alzheimer’s may exhibit new behaviors, such as following their loved one around the home or becoming more agitated at certain times of the day. There are tips caregivers can learn to help make adjustments.
- Cognitive testing as a reference point – Family members may believe that a loved one is “stubborn” and use that as an excuse for certain behaviors. Cognitive testing as part of OT can provide an objective assessment of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Managing for success – Keeping loved ones at home is typically a priority, but one of the leading reasons people with dementia are moved to care facilities is bowel and bladder incontinence. OT often can be used to better manage that condition.
Part of the occupational therapy process is performing periodic assessments to determine the strengths and areas of need for the person living with dementia. Those assessments will be used to help guide ongoing adjustments in care and coordinate efforts with the family physician.
To hear the presentation on 50 Things Occupational Therapy Can Do for a Person Living with Dementia, register for the free virtual Rocky Mountain Conference on Dementia by calling the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline at 800-272-3900.
The Alzheimer's Association leads the way to end Alzheimer's and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.™ For more information, visit www.alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.