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How Occupational Therapy Helps People with Dementia Maintain Independence

Senior woman doing occupational therapy with nurse

It’s estimated that over 6 million Americans are currently living with dementia. Although it affects everyone differently — from the speed of onset to the type of symptoms — here are some common dementia changes you may see in your loved one:

  • Apathy or a lack of interest in usual hobbies or interests
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Personality changes
  • Reduced thinking and processing speed
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty recalling names of family members or familiar objects
  • Difficulty understanding conversations, questions and instructions
  • Problems with judging distance
  • Trouble with knowing the time, date, or where they are

While there is currently no cure for dementia, occupational therapy for dementia has been shown to help improve the lives of those with dementia and their primary caregiver.

What Is Occupational Therapy?

Occupational therapists help people of all ages do things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities. In the case of occupational therapy for people with dementia, the therapist will assess your loved one’s daily life to identify goals, routines and activities that will help them maintain their independence. After making their assessment, the therapist will then give you and your loved one the tools needed to help preserve their memory and function for as long as possible. Some examples of occupational therapy and dementia interventions based on your loved one’s phase of dementia include:

Early-stage dementia 

During this phase of the condition, your loved one may have trouble with higher-level executive skills. An occupational therapist will evaluate your family member and create interventions to address driving, work and safety. This may include focusing more on ways to compensate for the loss of cognitive abilities with memory aides and recognizing remaining abilities. 

Middle-stage dementia

In this phase, the focus will be on keeping your loved one safe by incorporating strategies to prevent them from wandering. Your occupational therapist will also want to draw upon your loved one’s interests to develop personally meaningful tasks that will help keep your family member engaged.

Late-stage dementia

Once your loved one is in the later stages of dementia, they will likely start having difficulty with basic activities of dailing living (ADLs) such as eating, using the bathroom and getting around. Your therapist may shift their focus to adapting your family member’s home environment, finding ways to decrease caregiver burden, and enhance basic care by showing you how to: 

  • Safely transfer and/or move your loved one from the bed, a chair or the tub
  • Protect your family member’s skin from issues related to incontinence
  • Avoid contractures — a condition where a shortening and hardening of muscles and tendons causes joint rigidity
  • Provide enjoyable sensory stimulation

Memory Care at The Woodlands at Furman

Our memory care is designed to provide personalized attention that promotes a healthy lifestyle with opportunities to stay active and engaged. The caring and well-trained staff at our community will get to know your loved one so they can develop a specific care plan that includes familiar routines, engaging activities and social interaction. Our services and amenities include:

  • Personalized assistance
  • Licensed nursing staff on-site 24/7
  • Assistance with activities of daily living (such as bathing, dressing, personal grooming and daily bed-making)
  • Access to geriatric physician and geriatric nurse practitioner
  • Medication management provided by a licensed nurse
  • Access to on-site rehabilitation services (speech, occupational and physical therapies)
  • Wandering security system
  • Chef-prepared meals
  • Regularly scheduled housekeeping, laundry and flat linen service
  • Enclosed courtyard for walking and relaxing
  • Transportation to local medical appointments
  • Wide variety of daily activities

To learn more about our memory care community, contact us using this form.