Family members and loved ones of those with dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease are always looking for ways to, if not reverse the symptoms, at least keep them from getting worse.
Unfortunately, until things change, the disease doesn’t have a cure so various methods, including occupational therapy, seem able to help slow things down.
The team at Accredited Home Care keeps track of all the promising research taking place since many of our clients are suffering from various dementias and are at different stages in their progression.
People at earlier stages often don’t need home health care, but as it advances, more care and caregiving are needed.
Though the final stages may require someone relocating to a memory care facility or assisted living community, earlier stages may still allow people to live at home and keep their independence as long as possible.
While receiving home health care, they could be receiving a number of services and therapies that can help them mentally and physically. Some may directly aid them, others may help relax their brains and bodies, which still can provide overall benefits in terms of less anxiety, less pain, and more quality of life.
One useful service that’s offered by Accredited Home Care and other home health care agencies is occupational therapy.
For those unfamiliar with this type of therapy, it involves a trained occupational therapist working with a client to teach them a number of useful skills that can help them through standard daily tasks.
This can include many of the activities that people would need to demonstrate to live independently, or even with support from a caregiver.
Although its title makes it sound like it’s something that can help someone learn skills to get back to a job after an injury, occupational therapy can include helping people learn or relearn the standard activities they would perform in a day.
It can start by getting in and out of bed unassisted. While this might seem simple to people who have good health and full mobility, it can be challenging for someone to move from horizontal to vertical or vice versa.
Occupational therapists can teach people similar tasks such as dressing or undressing to get ready for the day and get ready for bed at night. This includes selecting clothes, putting them on properly, and manipulating any zippers, buttons, or threads.
Grooming is another task that occupational therapists teach that could be beneficial to those with memory problems or advanced dementias. This includes activities like washing one’s face, brushing one’s teeth, shaving, and other types of regular maintenance.
Occupational therapy can include other household tasks like safely preparing, serving, and eating a meal, followed by clean-up. These skills are also important to people living by themselves.
General mobility can help
Therapists can also have a role in helping clients evaluate their homes for potential hazards. For instance, area rugs can be removed since these can cause people to trip or for them to catch their cane or walker. Therapy can include practicing walking through this area with or without the rug.
They also could look at other parts of the house, including the bathroom, for hazards. Bathrooms have the reputation of being quite dangerous, especially for people with difficulties moving. A therapist can teach ways to navigate this room, including making surfaces less slippery or the floor not as hard.
Importance of research
While some may say the benefits that can come from occupational therapy are due to simply teaching these skills, there are legitimate studies that have a connection with Alzheimer’s disease.
The American Occupational Therapy Association said this therapy can help clients by teaching them how to be as independent as possible. Sometimes they may begin to have memory problems such as forgetting friends and family but can remember the steps to complete a household task.
This type of therapy can also help with someone’s survival. Their home may be safer since it’s been gone over with safety in mind. A therapist may have tried to teach skills to reduce the risk of falls that could cause hospitalization or death.
Regular therapy offers other benefits to clients, including general support and education. A weekly appointment can help them establish a routine that they can look forward to.
November is a good opportunity to hear more about the value of occupational therapy.
It’s Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, a national initiative that encourages people to learn more about some of the different options available in different communities.
The Alzheimer’s Association encourages people to donate time and funds local chapters as well as local caregivers trying to make a difference. This includes extra resources and contact information.
The Association even offers a 24-hour helpline where can discuss what’s happening in their lives. This confidential and free service is designed to help people with any questions they may have.