Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month: Spread the Word

Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month observed in June.Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month is observed in June as an opportunity to spread the word about and discuss Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases.

Our rehabilitation team at Excelsior Springs Hospital made up of Physical, Occupational and Speech Therapists play an essential role in supporting individuals with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones throughout the stages of decline.

Our team’s role as therapists is to work with patients to maximize their level of independence in their day-to-day activities. We achieve this through assessment of a patient’s daily life to identify goals, routines, and activities that they wish to maintain, protect or work towards. The journey of Alzheimer’s is different for each person diagnosed and our role is to provide patients and their families with the ‘tools’ needed to preserve their memory and function for as long as possible.

The physical therapist on our team keeps our patients mobile. Research shows that regular exercise may delay a decline in the ability to perform tasks in people who have Alzheimer’s disease by improving their strength, balance, and walking ability. Physical Therapists also provide education to caregivers and families on how to improve safety and manage their loved one’s needs. Family members may need instruction on how to safely move, lift, or transfer someone with Alzheimer’s disease. This education is essential to prevent injury to themselves and to the person with the disease.

Occupational therapy is also an important source of support for patients with Alzheimer’s and their families.  Occupational therapists provide assistance and recommendations on techniques to continue to complete everyday activities such as dressing and meal preparation as the condition advances. They also implement and train patients and families on use of adaptive equipment; from being able to put socks on from assistance from transferring from one surface to another.

Speech therapy for an individual with Alzheimer’s will typically target language and cognitive skills. It is well known that Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease. This means therapy will focus on maintaining the skills of the individual, providing strategies, making modifications to the environment, and providing education to their loved ones.  A speech therapist can provide strategies to help with “finding their word,” certain cognitive tasks like following directions with one or more steps, and as the disease progresses, ways to assist with eating and swallowing food safely.

The overall goal of therapy is to help the person be as independent as possible for as long as possible. Each therapy plan is designed specifically for each person to meet and maintain their needs. If you or a loved one would benefit from support from our therapy team, ask your doctor for a referral.