Habilitation Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerJanuary 22, 2018

A type of therapy for Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia, habilitation therapy allows people with the disease to retain their level of functioning by encouraging independence and providing a strong sense of purpose.

Learn more about habilitation therapy, how it differs from rehabilitation therapy, and how it can benefit people with dementia and their caregivers.

The Best Standard of Care for Alzheimer’s

Habilitation therapy (HT) is designed to help people with Alzheimer’s disease improve functional abilities that are hindered by the progression of dementia.

Aided by a better understanding of the psychology of the disease, habilitation therapy is thought by some researchers to be best standard of care and psychosocial intervention for people living with Alzheimer’s.

First developed in the 1990s by the Alzheimer’s Association (Massachusetts/New Hampshire chapter), HT is considered to be the best practice in day to day care for people with Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia. Habilitation therapy is not rehabilitation therapy, which strives to return a person to their earlier, higher level of functioning. That is not possible for someone with progressive memory loss. Thus, habilitation therapy focuses on extending current levels of functioning.

Touted as creating positive environments and relationships, HT is a comprehensive and holistic approach to dementia care that focuses on the abilities that the person with dementia still has, as opposed to what they have lost.

Habilitation therapy emphasizes capabilities, rather than inabilities, to reduce difficult symptoms.

The Benefits of Habilitation Therapy

Habilitation therapy can benefit everyone involved, including the person living with memory loss, their caregivers,  family and friends.

Benefits of habilitation therapy include:

  • Bringing caregivers and patients closer together as they work together on daily tasks
  • Exposure for a variety of emotions, including feeling respected, safe and valued
  • Lessened need for medications, including antipsychotics
  • Positive emotional experiences that bring pleasure, comfort, and happiness
  • Reduction of stress among caregivers, as the person with dementia is able to care for themselves longer
  • Sense of purpose for person with dementia

While the person with dementia can extend functioning through habilitation therapy, caregivers are still required to carry many daily duties.

Additionally, regardless of therapy, there is an emotional, financial and physical cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or a related form of dementia.

Have you used habilitation therapy with your loved one? Have you seen the benefits of the therapy? Would you recommend it? Why or why not? We’d like to hear more about your experiences in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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