Cognitive Rehab Helps Dementia Patients Cope

As the Baby Boomer generation ages, a growing proportion of the population will be over the age of 65 and without a cure or better treatment options, more elderly adults will suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.  And while it may not be possible to reverse damage in the brain caused by dementia, cognitive rehabilitation can help patients improve their ability to function and perform daily tasks.

According to a recent report in the New York Times, Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy is being used in England to help dementia patients re-learn skills they may be struggling with as the disease progresses.  Researcher Linda Clare from the University of Exeter has been using cognitive rehabilitation techniques, developed from therapies used to treat people suffering brain injuries, to help patients find strategies they can use to compensate for memory problems. 

An estimated 5.7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s today and it is anticipated that by 2050, that number will soar to 14 million.   Caring for seniors with dementia costs the nation $277 billion which could rise as high as $1.1 trillion by 2050.

Although therapy will not restore cognitive damage caused by dementia, patients are able to focus on better managing the tasks they consider important in their everyday life.  Using therapy to develop new approaches to managing a calendar or preparing a meal independently not only provides a better quality of life for patients, but it can also lighten the load for caregivers.  Caring for a love-one with dementia can be incredibly stressful and without a successful drug to treat AD and dementia on the horizon, researchers are continuing to focus on other interventions. 

Therapists are also working with dementia patients to help reduce behaviors that can be especially challenging for caregivers such as aggression, wandering, repeating questions or refusing help with tasks.  In the United States, T.A.P. (Tailored Activity Program)  interventions are hoped to lessen the burden on caregivers and reduce health care dollars spent on long-term care, hospitalization and emergency room visits.  Learn more about T.A.P research by following this link to the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.