Dementia results from impaired cognition, due to damage to the brain. The majority of dementia cases (60% to 80%) are classified as Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Association, n.d.). The signs of dementia generally include, but are not limited to, decreased short-term memory, decreased problem solving skills, decreased perceptual skills, and personality changes. The onset of dementia is gradual, and the course of the disease spans several years or more. In Alzheimer’s disease, the person progresses through several stages that roughly coincide with reverse developmental levels, with those in the final stages being completely dependent on others.
Occupational therapy practitioners, through their academic curricula, expertise in activity analysis, and work with older people in various settings, address dementia as a condition that affects occupational performance. Practitioners can educate family members, concerned others, and even those in the early stages of the disease about dementia and its functional implications. Occupational therapists evaluate persons with dementia to determine their strengths, impairments, and performance areas needing intervention (Schaber & Lieberman, 2010). Although remediation of cognitive performance is not likely, the person may demonstrate improved function through compensation or adaptation. Occupational therapy practitioners also assist care providers to help them cope with this difficult, and yet often rewarding, role.
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