November is Alzheimer’s disease awareness month, and for those of you who don’t know, it is a condition which affects 5% of Americans age 65 and older and is the fifth leading cause of death among senior citizens. This disease is the most common form of dementia, damaging brain cells and affecting how we speak, think, and interact with the world around us over time.
Your risk of being diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease increases as you age, and having a relative with the disease can further increase your risk.
Research shows that physical activity can improve memory. Regular exercise may delay the onset of dementia as well as delay the decline in ability to perform daily activities for people living with Alzheimer’s disease.
As trained experts, physical therapists can design individualized exercise programs for people living with Alzheimer’s disease. In the early and middle stages, physical therapists focus on keeping people mobile and able to continue their roles in their homes and communities. During the later stages, physical therapists assist patients in performing their daily activities as long as they can, reducing the burden placed on family members and caregivers of the person diagnosed. Physical therapists can also instruct caregivers on how to manage the needs of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
People living with Alzheimer’s disease often develop other conditions linked to aging – like arthritis or broken bones. Physical therapists are trained to treat these conditions, and take into account the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on other health conditions and on their patient’s ability to understand and follow through with important instructions.
The therapist may use various training methods to simplify instructions, and use unique Alzheimer’s specific approaches, including:
Visual, verbal, and tactile cueing – The physical therapist provides cues such as pointing to objects or gesturing signaling the patient to perform different tasks. For example, lifting up both arms can signal to a patient to stand up.
Mirroring – This technique involves the physical therapist serving as a “mirror,” standing in front of the person to show them how to move.
Task breakdown – Physical therapists give step-by-step instructions to their patients by breaking down a task into short, simple pieces, to be completed separately to maximize safety.
Hand over hand facilitation – The physical therapist guides the body part of the patient through the motions of completing a task, showing them how to do the activity through guided example.
Physical therapists are trained medical personnel who through their care, can help improve quality of life and possibly delay the need for institutionalization of their clients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Did you know that you do not need a referrals for physical therapy? For more information call The Physical Therapy Alliance (516) 568-4444 with locations in Massapequa, Valley Stream, Wantagh and Lindenhurst.