Caregivers, Health

Helping Loved Ones With Dementia Adapt to Changes

The world around us is ever-changing, so we find ourselves adapting to these changes, big and small.  While we may be resistant to change, most of us have basic problem solving skills to confidently maneuver through new territory.  However with dementia, the disease is slowly decreasing the individual’s ability to function as they once could.  As the disease creates changes in the brain, it creates changes in the physical body, which changes how the individual operates in the world.

Photo courtesy of Angela Hammond.

How can we help individuals diagnosed with dementia adapt to changes and promote quality of life in the midst of it?  Occupational Therapists can teach us!  Kahla Jones, an Occupational Therapist with Encompass Health, shares that goals of care for occupational therapy include independence in self care and mobility.  Self care can mean being able to perform activities of daily living (dressing, bathing, toileting, etc) but it can also mean hobbies and activities that have meaning and importance to the individual.

Occupational Therapists focus on family education, simplifying tasks, paying attention to the task at hand, problem solving and overcoming functional challenges.  They may utilize assistive devices to help a person complete a task independently.  For example, in the later stages of dementia, an individual may require assistance with feeding; an Occupational Therapist may recommend divided plates, or cups with handles/lids, weighted utensils, any device that make the task simpler and the individual accomplishes it independently.

When should you talk to your Primary Practitioner about Occupational Therapy?  Kahla recommends when there is a decline medically, increased confusion, or more difficulty completing routine tasks of self care.  Occupational Therapy can be performed in a rehabilitative setting or in the home with a home health provider.

Angela Hammond is owner and Director of The Day Place, located in Gardendale, and a contributor to Gardendale Health.