Alzheimer's Disease and the Role of Occupational Therapy
Alzheimer's disease is the most common of a large group of disorders known as "dementias." It is an irreversible disease of the brain in which the progressive degeneration of brain cells causes thinking ability and memory to deteriorate. Alzheimer's disease also affects behavior, mood and emotions, and the ability to perform daily living activities.
Occupational Therapists can help to recommend products and/or devices to assist a client with memory loss to maintain independence with a specific task, and to remain safe.
- For clients beginning to have memory loss, there are memory apps, medication reminders, locator devices, stove element timers, calendars, and clocks that can be used to remind a client to take their medications, help search for items, automatically shut off the stove after a certain time period, visually track important information, etc.
- For caregivers, there are wander alerts and bed alarms to alert a caregiver if the client exits the bed without supervision, wanders past a certain boundary, etc.
Any of these devices might work well for one person, and be frustrating for another. Occupational therapists take into account the environment and the client's abilities and goals, recognizing what will most improve their quality of life.
Home safety concerns related to the cognitive and behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease Related Dementias (ADRD) are particularly worrisome to caregivers; the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) have outlined a few safety suggestions that may help.
Occupational Therapists can also provide tips for making routines easier for people with dementia.
Keep Your Brain Active
Keep your brain active with Brain-Booster activities
Knowing when to see a Doctor
Knowing when a memory problem warrants a visit to the doctor can be tricky. Watch the video When should I be concerned about my memory? to help you decide whether it might be worth talking to your doctor.
Making the most of your memory
CAOT shares tips on making the most of your memory.
First Link® Program
First Link® is a referral program designed to help newly diagnosed people with dementia get the help they need as soon as possible, by connecting people living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias and their families with the Alzheimer's Society. The Alzheimer Society provides services and support at the time of diagnosis and throughout the duration of the disease.
Encouraging social skills in someone with Alzheimer's
It is important to encourage both verbal and non-verbal social skills in someone with Alzheimer's disease. Read this excerpt to understand more about encouraging social skills and which cues are helpful.
Using the senses to connect with someone who has Alzheimer's
The primary sensory areas of the brain remain relatively untouched in persons with Alzheimer's Disease. Using sensory stimulation in everyday activities can enable the person to be more responsive and involved in life, as well as provide pleasurable sensory experiences.
Useful sensory cues are:
- familiar, everyday objects (ie. fresh flowers, orange)
- focus on only one sense at a time (ie. the smell of the flowers or the feel of the orange skin)
- draw the person's attention to the item (ie. by placing the flowers under her/his nose or gently placing hands on the stems)
- encourage the person to make an adult, functional response (ie. putting the flowers in the vase or peel and eat the orange).
Learning about loss and grief due to Alzheimer's disease or other dementias can help in better understanding the feelings that occur and may ease the process. The Alzheimer Society has developed evidence-based resources for people with dementia, their family members, caregivers, staff, and health care professionals.