Occupational therapy can help people with dementia maintain their independence and quality of life as the disease progresses. An occupational therapist (OT) can help identify tasks that a person finds challenging and devise strategies to make those tasks more manageable.
Occupational therapy aims to help people with dementia to participate in meaningful and valued activities, roles, and relationships.
This article outlines the goals of occupational therapy for dementia and describes how it can help people living with the disease. It also provides guidance on how to find an OT and how to seek funding for dementia treatment.
As a 2021 study explains, the goal of occupational therapy for dementia is to improve health, well-being, and overall quality of life (QOL). Occupational therapy aims to help individuals living with dementia, as well as their caregivers.
An OT will work with an individual and their caregiver where necessary to identify tasks they find challenging and devise strategies to help make those tasks safer and more manageable.
Occupational therapy can help individuals maintain their independence, autonomy, and sense of purpose, which can improve their quality of life.
An OT can also direct people to other helpful services, organizations, and networks and can advise caregivers on how to support an individual living with dementia.
The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) outlines various ways in which occupational therapy can help a person to maintain their independence. These include:
- Teaching skills: An OT can teach people skills to help them perform everyday activities, such as bathing, dressing, and eating.
- Teaching techniques to improve cognitive function: An OT can teach techniques to help people with the following cognitive skills:
- Providing adaptive equipment: Adaptive equipment can ease everyday tasks, allowing more independence. Examples of such equipment include:
- adaptive cutlery to help at mealtimes
- bathroom aids to help with washing and bathing, such as handrails, non-slip mats, or shower seats
- visual aids to help with dressing, such as signs on wardrobes and drawers to help people locate clothing, and photographs of how the person looks in different outfits
- Improving safety in the home: An OT may
recommendthe following tips to help prevent falls and accidents:
- installing grab rails or non-slip mats
- decluttering floors and surfaces
- installing proper indoor lighting
- removing locks from doors so that a person cannot accidentally lock themselves into a room
- Advising caregivers: An OT can advise caregivers on how to support an individual living with dementia.
A person who receives a diagnosis of dementia can ask their primary healthcare professional for a referral or information on finding an OT in their area.
A doctor may also be able to provide other helpful information, such as local dementia organizations and networks.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers guidance on funding dementia care. Some options to consider include.
Individuals over the age of 65 may be able to fund dementia care through Medicare insurance. Those below the age of 65 may be able to fund dementia care via the following:
- private health insurance
- a group employee health plan
- retiree medical coverage
Some employers may offer benefits packages for individuals who continue to work throughout the early stages of dementia. Packages may include:
- paid sick leave
- short-term disability benefits
- a flexible spending account
Some individuals may be eligible for government assistance in addition to Medicare. Examples may include:
- social security disability income (SSDI)
- supplemental security income (SSI)
- veteran benefits
- tax deductions and credits
Community support services
Many community organizations offer free or low cost services for people with dementia. These may include:
- transportation services
- home-delivered meals
- support groups
- respite care
A person can ask their healthcare professional for more information on services in their area.
Occupational therapy can help individuals with dementia to maintain their independence as the disease progresses. Occupational therapists work with a person to identify tasks that the person finds difficult and devise ways to make those tasks more manageable.
OTs can also advise caregivers on how to support a person living with dementia.
Anyone wanting to find out more about finding an OT in their area can contact their primary healthcare professional for further advice.
When it comes to funding dementia care, there are various options to consider, including medical insurance, employee benefits, and government assistance.
Many community support services also offer free or low cost assistance, such as transportation services, meal delivery services, and dementia support groups.
Visit our dedicated hub for more research-backed information and in-depth resources on dementia.