Are you a caretaker for a loved one who is struggling with dementia? Whether you are at the early stages or if the disease has progressed, your life probably feels like it revolves around your loved one. Making accommodations, helping them with daily tasks, all the while you are trying to balance your own life. But have you considered the different types of therapy that may make dementia easier for your loved one as well as you to manage?
What To Look For In A Therapy
There are tons of different kinds of therapies geared toward seniors. Most of them including physical activity or social interaction to keep the mind and body fresh for as long as possible. But when it comes to therapies that are geared toward dementia, researchers have noticed that the ones focused on three main domains are more successful.
The three important domains that the therapy should focus on are the maintenance of function, cognitive function, and the management of behaviors that can make comorbid emotional disorders more likely or severe. Each of these three domains has the aim to improve the wellbeing and quality of life for patients with dementia.
There are tons of therapies out there for seniors with dementia, but what would be the best one for you or your loved one? Researchers have studied and assessed different types of therapies while focusing on three important domains they believe are imperative for successful treatment: maintenance of function, cognitive function, and the management of behaviors that can make comorbid emotional disorders more likely or severe.
Important Goals Of Therapy
When looking into these therapies, it is good to have goals. Yes, you know that you need a therapy that works on emotional stability, cognitive skills, and function maintenance but what do those kinds of goals really look like?
One goal you should have in therapy for dementia is attaining or preserving some type of independence. This is important for the senior’s emotional well being as well as learning how to function properly throughout the day.
Researchers have discovered that a balance of personal care, as well as leisure and spiritual activities, are important for a high quality of life and authentic independence. The ability to do daily tasks deteriorates rather quickly with dementia, so it is important to promote independence as early on in the disease as possible.
Communication may be a skill that we take for granted. Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn’t express what you wanted to? It’s absolutely frustrating. And it can be harmful when you are someone who needs assistance with their day to day life.
Therapies that help improve communication skills may be able to help preserve social function as well as help make the relationship between you and your loved one with dementia less challenging. You should also have their hearing and sight checked because these senses play such a vital role in communication. Improved communication can help reduce dependency as well as allowing the person with dementia to express the needs they do have.
ADL Skill Training
ADL stands for Activities of Daily Living. This is things like putting clothes away, making a snack, or brushing your teeth. Therapies that focus on these skills can help promote independence as well as personal care.
ADL skill training can help make daily tasks easier, making your loved one run into fewer roadblocks as they try to complete their tasks. These types of therapy generally asses people’s life abilities, impairments, and task abilities and help teach the patient how to cope and work around their limitations.
Therapies that implement exercise can help keep your loved one with dementia healthy as well as keep them safe. Exercising therapies can help with endurance, strength, and balance to help prevent falls and improve mobility.
Types Of Therapy For Dementia
Now that you know what key elements that you are looking for, you can start to browse through different types of therapy that may be beneficial to your loved one. While there are common therapies you may have already heard about like occupational therapy, there are different options you might want to keep in mind.
One of the most common ways to care for your elderly loved one with dementia is by using occupational therapy. This type of therapy is when an occupational therapist works with the patient to help them practice their ADL skills. Having contact with an occupational therapist can also help your senior exercise their social skills.
The occupational therapist can also work with you, the caretaker, to learn how to make things easier at home for your loved one. They can also make it less of a burden for you by helping your loved one maintain independence, helping to free you of some of the tasks you would normally have to help with.
Doing community service is great for your loved one and your community. You would benefit as well considering there is scientific evidence that being kind is good for your health. Why not join them?
Participating in community services like organizing cans in a food drive or folding bulletins for a local group can help them have a feeling of worth and belonging in the community. Having these tasks to complete can also give them a sense of independence.
Being around others can also help with their communication skills. Being surrounded by others who are all working toward the same cause can give them a sense of community.
Some nursing homes and caretakers have found success in using a teddy bear or a lifelike baby doll for their patients with dementia. Caretakers have found that doll therapy can help decrease stress and agitation. Having this doll can also create structure and responsibility for the patient. In some cases, patients who are lacking in communication skills began to vocalize because their instinct was to hum or sing to the baby doll.
Cognitive Stimulation Therapy
Cognitive stimulation therapy is meant for people who have mild to moderate symptoms of dementia. This type of therapy is done in a group setting followed by a one on one evaluation. The patient completes sessions with themed activities that encourage a higher level of mental activity while also getting the social benefit of a group.
Reminiscence therapy is when you have a therapist discuss past activities, events or experiences. This is usually while using things like photographs, old music, or home movies. Doing this can help them practice their recall ability and may be able to help improve their cognitive functions.
Reality Orientation Therapy
Reality orientation therapy is when a patient sees someone who talks about the now instead of the past. Repeating things like the time or place to help the senior with dementia to understand their surroundings and reality. This type of therapy is supposed to help jog the memory to help keep the senior more functional. Studies show it may be able to help with improving the sense of control and self-control while improving cognitive and behavioral symptoms.
Validation therapy is less focused on the tangible reality and more focused on thoughts and feelings. A therapist will listen to your senior with dementia and hear what they have to say giving empathetic feedback about their frustrations. This can help them learn to work through their emotions with different coping mechanisms. The therapist can help them identify triggers and help determine if another therapy is being too emotionally or mentally draining for them.
Joining a singing choir has shown to help with social skills and improve mood. Music therapy has also shown in studies to help boost cognitive performance while reducing stress. Learning new instruments or music can also help to boost memory and memory recall. This type of therapy may be even more beneficial if the therapist includes old songs from when your loved one was younger.
Art therapy has shown to help with depression, anxiety, as well as self-esteem. This type of therapy can also help your loved one with their special awareness. Doing art therapy in a group can help your loved one practice their social skills and communication while also gaining social recognition having something to be proud of.
If your loved one with dementia is unable to form cohesive sentences, speech therapy may be needed in order for them to improve their communication skills. This therapy also focuses on attention, problem-solving, and memory. Speech therapy can help preserve your loved one’s speaking skills. You can help at home, too, by doing things like making written cues around the house.
Physical therapy is a great way to keep your loved ones active in a safe way. Doing too much can cause harm to the body, so having someone who knows how to help the elderly exercise is very beneficial. Using physical therapy in the early stages can help your loved one preserve their independence and help prevent falls which is taking some of the burden off of you as the caregiver. As the disease progresses, physical therapy can help slow down the loss of function.
Take Your Pick!
You’ve got a good idea of what kind of therapies there are for your loved one with dementia. And you don’t have to just choose one, utilizing multiple tools is a great way to keep your loved one coherent for longer.
Have you and a loved one used one of these therapies or a different therapy for dementia? We would love to hear what worked for you in the comment section below!