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Occupational Therapy – supporting people with Dementia

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What is Occupational Therapy?

 

Occupational therapists are allied health professionals who enable people to live life their way – helping people to keep up their everyday activities and remain independent for as long as possible after they develop dementia (COT, 2010).

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What is Dementia?

 

Dementia is a term used to describe a number of conditions that result in cognitive decline.  Within the dementia bracket are conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Vascular and Lewy Body to name just a few.

 

As these Dementia’s all present and progress so differently, the Occupational Therapist will use their knowledge of the condition alongside objective functional assessment to develop a package of intervention which is both client centred and meaningful.

 

What can the Occupational Therapist do?

 

Environment:

The Occupational Therapist does not consider the person an isolation.  The environment is critical in supporting functional independence and occupational performance.  For some dementia sufferers there may be a need to adapt the environment due to physical or cognitive decline, however, for others the Occupational Therapist may be supporting independence by balancing physical needs with minimising environmental disruption that would otherwise disorientate and change what have been effective routines.

 

Safety:

Cognitive decline, particularly when physical ability is unimpaired, often leads to increased risk.  Common risks include scalding, gas usage, wandering but do not have to be as overt.  When ability to process new information, problem solve or risk assess is impaired, anything that involves the smallest change can constitute a risk.  Medication management is a good example of something that can be routine and habitual becomes problematic with only a very small change.

The Occupational Therapist has knowledge of safety devices and alarms that are low cost or free and readily available. All occupational therapists are trained and have experience that help people avoid falling over and getting injured and can offer practical advice that will help you remain safe in your own home.

 

 

Support:

The Occupational Therapist’s assessment enables any care in place/recommended to be personalised to individual’s needs.  As the professional philosophy is to maximise independence the Occupational Therapist will ensure that carer support will balance this with risks, ensuring that the person’s priorities and own goals are central to that plan.

 

The Occupational Therapist can also work closely with the carers/care providers to ensure that they have all of the required knowledge and skills to meet these individual needs.

 

Spirituality:

This is core to the Occupational Therapy process and by nature is different for everyone. It focuses on areas that motivate the individual and drive the individual to perform occupationally.  For some, the therapist may consider aspects of daily life which motivate or give the person meaning; for others it may be developing an intervention plan which supports access to a place or worship or developing memory boxes/reminiscence activities.

 

Leisure:

Leisure activities that provide intellectual and social stimulation protect against dementia. Even small amounts of mental, physical and social activity matter when accumulated. It is therefore important for older adults to participate in mentally, socially and physically stimulating activities as this may postpone the onset of dementia (Fratiglioni et al 2007).

Without being able to complete basic day-to-day tasks such as bathing, toileting, making meals or staying warm, remaining involved in meaningful leisure activities becomes increasingly problematic.  The Occupational Therapist’s assessment/intervention will support completion of these daily functional tasks (if important to the person) so that important leisure activities can continue to be pursued.

 

UK Therapy Services offers packages of assessment, rehabilitation and intervention to maximise occupational performance and reduce risk for clients with a Dementia diagnosis, their family and carers.

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