One of the biggest challenges with caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease is managing day to day activities as the disease progresses. That’s where an occupational therapist can be an immense source of help.
Occupational therapists focus on working with you and your family to cope with the changes that the disease brings and make life as full as possible. Read more about how occupational therapy can help your loved one with Alzheimer’s.
The Role of an Occupational Therapist
The American Occupational Therapy Association defines an occupational therapist (OT) as a professional that:
- Enables people to live life to its fullest
- Helps people to do the things they need and want to do
- Provides therapy for the activities of daily living (ADLs)
ADLs can include:
- Making food
- Managing your finances
An OT works to set up a living environment, so a parent or senior loved one can function better. They also help with adjusting ADLs to make them easier for both you and your loved one.
3 Ways Occupational Therapy Can Help People With Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s involves a continual loss of cognitive function resulting from damage to the brain, which can wreak havoc on your and a parent’s or senior loved one’s day to day activities. That is where an OT can help.
OTs can make life as full as possible for your loved one by:
1. Improving function and safety.
Research has found that occupational therapy is key to increasing the safety of people with Alzheimer’s.
Over 70% of people with the disease will have a fall that leads to:
- Having to move out of their home
- Not being able to take care of themselves
- Quicker decline
OTs will work with the family members and the person with the disease to assess the home environment and home safety. An OT makes recommendations for what needs to change to keep the person safe as well as what equipment can be used for daily activities to reduce the chance of injury. OTs also provide guidance on how to make daily activities easier.
An OT may recommend routine exercises that help to maintain mobility as well as to build up:
- Range of motion
This helps to prolong your loved one’s independence.
2. Promoting relationships and social participation.
Alzheimer’s is characterized by behaviors and a loss of communication that is often hard on relationships.
An OT will look at how problem behaviors are affecting the relationships and social interactions of the person with the disease. The OT can help you look at what appears to trigger these behaviors and what are possible solutions.
OTs can provide help with:
- Frequent outbursts
- How to respond to the underlying emotion
- Trouble communicating
Your loved one may also benefit from opportunities to do tasks that are fulfilling. An OT can help you to find and set up familiar and simple tasks such as laundry folding, simple puzzles and sorting objects.
3. Providing education and support to Alzheimer’s caregivers.
Occupational therapy helps your loved one by giving you the education and support you need. An OT can help you set up routines that make taking care of your loved one easier. An effective routine can help with making sure that your loved one is drinking and eating enough, decreasing problem behaviors and taking medications at the right time.
You might benefit from learning techniques that make it easier to assist your loved one with daily activities. An OT can give you guidance on how to:
- Break down tasks to be more manageable
- Provide instructions that are easy to understand
- Reduce distractions
- Use visual cues
The role of the family in caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can be constant and overwhelming. Occupational therapy focuses on relieving the caregiving burden by promoting independence.
A study recently found that 10 sessions of occupational therapy over five weeks significantly improved motor functioning and slowed the loss of independence in daily activities. Caregivers reported that their loved one’s daily functioning was better even up to three months after the therapy ended.
Occupational therapy gives you and your parent or senior loved one support so that you don’t have to cope alone. Instead, you can rely on the help of an OT to help your loved one continue to enjoy and participate in life.
Do you have day-to-day challenges with your loved one with Alzheimer’s? Have you had help from an occupational therapist? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.