Physical Therapy for Dementia Patients: What We Know NowWendy Grieco
Healthcare professionals are still learning much about dementia, and research suggests that individuals experiencing cognitive decline may benefit from physical therapy. By using physical therapy CEUs to educate yourself about opportunities to help those experiencing cognitive decline, you can enhance the mobility and quality of life for individuals living with dementia.
A Shift in Thinking about Dementia
For years, patients with dementia have been misunderstood. In fact, in times past, it was assumed that physical therapy was largely useless for individuals living with dementia. However, the truth is that individuals with cognitive decline still experience emotional and procedural memory development. Thus, such ones can benefit from working with a trained physical therapist.
The Physical Benefits of Physical Therapy
One of the significant physical benefits dementia patients can derive from physical therapy is a reduction in fall risk. Problems with balance and gait can often be lessened by regular physical therapy sessions, thereby reducing the risk of falls, fractures, and other injuries.
Another significant benefit is increased circulation. Regular physical therapy can improve circulation, thereby stimulating the brain and body, promoting better health and increased cognitive ability.
The Emotional Benefits of Physical Therapy
One of the lessons repeated time and again in physical therapy continuing education is that therapeutic care must be based on the personal needs of clients. This is particularly true in the case of dementia patients. Why?
Simply put, dementia patients or other patients suffering from cognitive decline require personalized care that appeals to their particular abilities and interests. Thus, physical therapists must sometimes think outside the box to incorporate familiar objects or actions into a physical therapy regimen for dementia patients.
The key is to find out what activities motivate clients. Some clients are driven by looking at old photos, whereas others enjoy bird watching, or spending time with a favorite pet. Incorporating therapy with favorite pastimes allows for emotional development and increased comfort for the patient.
The Social Benefits of Physical Therapy
Though establishing a personal connection with dementia patients is admittedly difficult at times, physical therapists who use their sessions as opportunities to develop relationships often see excellent returns. With regular therapy and encouragement, those experiencing cognitive decline may be able to build stronger social connections over time.
Physical therapists who approach their work with dementia patients in a kind, respectful way often see positive results. By approaching the work from the perspective of the patient rather than adhering strictly to a pre-set protocol, therapists can gradually help dementia patients feel less stressed during therapy and benefit more fully.
Physical Therapists Can Improve their Craft
Not every patient is the same, but you can make your care as consistent and professional as possible by pursuing education and industry development. Understanding physical dementia management as a therapist who regularly works with these patients is critical, as is developing personalized standards of care that speak to the intellectual and emotional needs of these clients.
You can stay informed of new developments in your field by levering continuing education. Take physical therapy CEU courses regularly. Not sure how to get started? Take a look at our Physical Therapy Courses to see the current offerings.