As a health care provider – whether you are a case manager, geriatrician or other clinician involved with caring for dementia patients and their caregivers, you are likely always seeking specialized opportunities to incorporate evidence-based skills that will make a difference in the lives of your patients and their families.
James L. West Center for Dementia Care is excited to announce the addition of short-term rehabilitation services specializing in meeting the needs of the dementia population.
In addition to pharmacological management, increasing research has shown that short-term rehabilitation including physical, occupational and speech therapy services have a positive impact on mood, activities of daily living (ADLs), mobility and improved quality of life. These can enable dementia patients to live as functionally as possible for as long as possible.
According to the 2023 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, the vast majority of people who develop dementia are age 65 years are older. Dementia is believed to be a result of multiple factors rather than a single cause, with age, genetics and family history as contributing factors.
While short-term rehabilitation cannot cure or eliminate the symptoms of dementia, we can work together to slow disease progression, focus on maximizing function, reduce caregiver stress and improve quality of life for those entrusted to our care.
So, what exactly are some of the benefits of these short-term rehabilitation therapies? Let us take a closer look.
Incorporating physical therapy services – such as aerobic exercise, resistance training, balance activities, functional mobility training and stretching are key interventions that positively impact cognition and can have several benefits, including:
- Improving flexibility and muscle strength to help with participating in daily activities, plus improved cardiovascular health for boosted immunity and strength to fight the bigger battle
- Slowing mental decline and reducing depression
- Improving mood; reducing stress; lifting self-esteem and increasing a sense of calm to reduce episodes of aggression, wandering or agitation
- Reducing fall risk because of improved strength and balance
- Increasing endorphin and neuron development to help keep cognitive abilities sharp, to the best of one’s ability
- Gaining a sense of purpose and accomplishment in one’s day while staying occupied with a beneficial activity
Occupational therapy (OT) uses a patient-centered approach to identify the needs of the dementia patient, focusing on late-loss ADLs, environmental modifications, and both patient and caregiver education to maximize the patient’s functional abilities.
As a health care provider, you’re likely familiar with the importance of stretching and strengthening to make sure an individual is strong enough to carry out activities of daily living. But one additional key component to occupational therapy for someone living with dementia is practicing, developing new strategies and incorporating adaptive devices to help perform daily activities like eating, dressing and bathing. Below are some additional benefits of OT:
- Improved ability to carry out instrumental activities for independent living, such as light meal preparation or shopping for personal items, clothing and groceries
- The ability to wash and dry personal laundry; clean and maintain one’s home; and manage money by making and following a budget, paying bills on time, and doing business at the bank
- Maintaining the ability to communicate by using a phone or computer
- Adapting to the environment with support measures such as a dementia-friendly clock, labeled doors and drawers, or orientation strategies for one’s surroundings
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), often called speech therapists are a vital part of the team and provide invaluable services to those with dementia.
Possessing and practicing the skills to communicate with others is critical for those living with dementia, but speech therapy (ST) is about so much more than treating reduced speech and language function. There are many challenges caused by dementia that can be mitigated with ST. Along with helping to improve an individual’s communication deficits caused by dementia, these therapies strive to improve coping strategies to support independence and confidence. ST can help with a wide variety of speech-related issues:
- Helping to maintain and support cognitive-linguistic impairments by focusing on restoring memory, sequencing, problem solving, safety awareness and attention
- Expressing language through traditional and alternative forms (written words, body language, computer, etc.) to convey wants and needs, and to help facilitate socialization and connection with others
- Reducing hoarse or harsh voice quality, improving word articulation, cultivating expressive language and addressing speech challenges, such as aphasia
- Assessing eating, drinking and swallowing difficulties and offering therapies to help with mealtime
- Gauging an individual’s capacity to process information as accurately as possible, which is important when it comes to consent to treatment and care – vital for both the individual and their caregiving team