Dementia & Occupational Therapy

RehabVisions and our therapists are no strangers to the topic of dementia. For OT month, we asked Regional Clinical Manager Jolene Denn, SLP to share how her team approaches dementia and her OT’s role. Jolene is an expert on dementia and has presented a CEU course on the subject to RehabVisions therapists.

Too often, when caregivers, family members and even therapists think about dementia we seem to focus on what the person CAN’T do anymore. They can’t be alone, can’t use the stove, can’t drive, can’t dress themselves, and can’t even find the bathroom. However, occupational therapists play a crucial role in working with clients with dementia, because they focus on what the person CAN do. Occupational therapy approaches treatment with a focus on a patient’s remaining skills or abilities, and how to capitalize on those to make the individual as independent as possible.

Common goals in dementia therapy include restoration (at early stages), maintenance of abilities/routines, and modification.


Specific to occupational therapy, the goal may be to restore physical strength, activity tolerance, or range of motion, in order for the person with dementia to participate in activities that are meaningful to the individual.

OTs play a key role in cognitive testing in order to determine the safest living environments, or services that may be needed in order for the person with dementia to return to their home. Cognitive testing allows the care-planning team or family to better understand where the person is in their disease process, and how to best communicate so that the person with dementia also understands.


OTs would then want to maintain the strengths and abilities that have been restored, so that the person with dementia can enrich their everyday life. This is helpful to the caregivers, as OT is reducing caregiver stress by assisting the person to complete more of their own care themselves. OTs assess daily routines of a person with dementia and identify what works well, and provide support/interventions to promote safe completion of these routines as long as possible.


As dementia progresses, environments generally need to be modified or adapted in order to keep the person with dementia safe. The interventions OTs can provide in this area are endless: dressing aids, toilet aids, w/c modifications, improved cuing systems at the person’s cognitive level, etc.

According to the World Health Organization, over 47.5 million people have dementia and 2030 projections are currently at 75.6 million cases worldwide. Check back next month for specific treatment techniques to consider when treating dementia patients.



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