Occupational Therapy and Alzheimer’s

Occupational Therapy and Alzheimer’s

Occupational Therapy and Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s and other related dementias can diminish the quality of life for many individuals who have been diagnosed. Common symptoms include memory loss, difficulty with language, decreased ability to do everyday tasks, and changes in perception. As a result, the normal activities that characterize and structure everyday life become altered and eventually taken away from those who have dementia. The process is slow and can take years. But there are people who can help during this difficult transition: Occupational Therapists.

Occupational therapists (OTs) help individuals with disabilities, illnesses, and injuries re-adjust to everyday life by finding functional solutions to overcome obstacles.[1] In essence, occupational therapists can teach people and their families how certain injuries and diseases will impact functional activities and find strategies to help their patients adapt to their condition.[2] Because everyday activities often bring us a sense of purpose and importance, it is essential to find ways to help individuals maintain autonomy and control over their lives if they encounter obstacles. Occupations like gardening, doing laundry, cooking, etc. are tied to our everyday experiences, identities, and personalities. Being unable or less able to perform these everyday activities can negatively impact us, causing stress, depression, and frustration. Occupational therapists are here to evaluate and help patients find ways to manage their condition and bring back as much control into their life as possible.

Occupational therapists can help families and their loved ones with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia adapt to the challenges that the disease brings. For example, they can educate family members about what to expect and how the disease might impact functional activities. They can also help families’ loved ones live as independently as possible during the early stages of the disease. Consider these two examples on how occupational therapists can help both patients and their families[3]:

Patients: Diseases like Alzheimer’s negatively impact memory. An occupational therapist can help their patients develop a system in which there are a limited range of options to make decision making easier. For example, if their patients cannot remember how to dress for the weather, occupational therapists fill a closet with a small choice of clothes to make it easier for their clients to choose appropriate attire.

Families: Occupational therapists can sit down with families to teach them about effective communication strategies during interactions with their loved ones. For instance, occupational therapists can help families respond appropriately to negative emotions from their loved ones. It is not productive to respond to negative situations with further aggravation. When family caregivers can better understand the context in which their loved one is behaving, they can manage difficult situations more easily.

Occupational therapists are valuable experts who can make the lives of family caregivers and their loved ones a lot better. Ask your healthcare provider for resources telling you where you can find occupational therapists near you. If you have any other questions, please call ElderCare at Home at 888-285-0093 or visit our website!

[1] Source: https://www.caot.ca/document/4040/OTandALZ_FS.pdf

[2] Source: https://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Professionals/MH/Dementia.aspx

[3] Source: https://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Professionals/MH/Dementia.aspx

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