24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904

Alzheimers Disease and other Cognitive Disorders
Basic Information
Introduction & Causes of Cognitive DisordersDementiaAlzheimer's DiseaseOther Cognitive DisordersDementia Coping Skills & Behavior ManagementTraumatic Brain Injury (TBI)Conclusion and Resources
More InformationLatest News
Proton Pump Inhibitor Use Ups Pneumonia Risk in DementiaVitamin E, Selenium Supplements Won't Curb Men's Dementia RiskDizzy Spells in Middle-Age Tied to Dementia Risk LaterFive Million American Seniors Now Living With Alzheimer'sStudy: Gene Test Needed Before Using Alzheimer's Drug 'Off-Label'Annual Death Toll From Alzheimer's Nearly Doubles in 15 YearsImmune Disorders Such as MS, Psoriasis May Be Tied to Dementia RiskIs Need for More Sleep a Sign of Pending Dementia?Unhealthy in Middle Age, Dementia in Old Age?HRT Won't Lower Women's Alzheimer's Risk, Study FindsReview Links Albuminuria to Cognitive Impairment, DementiaCan Air Pollution Heighten Alzheimer's Risk?Bilingual People May Have an Edge Against Alzheimer'sBusy Minds May Be Better at Fighting DementiaDementia May Be Exacerbated by Hospital-Related DeliriumLink Seen Between Concussions and Alzheimer'sContinuing Warfarin Protective After Diagnosis of DementiaDoes Living Near Major Roads Boost Dementia Risk?Caregiver Phone Support Ups Use of Community ResourcesAntipsychotic Drugs May Up Risk of Early Death in Alzheimer's PatientsIs Dementia in Older Women Tied to 20-Year Rate of Weight Loss?Better Sleep May Signal Recovery From Brain Injuryβ-Blockers May Not Be Appropriate for Dementia PatientsTest Predicting Alzheimer's Would Be Welcome, Survey FindsWhether Statins Cut Alzheimer's Risk May Depend on Gender, RaceBeta Blockers May Not Be Best Heart Drugs for Dementia PatientsAlzheimer's Patients' Use of Painkilling Patches Cause for ConcernYoung Adults With Head Trauma May Have Higher Risk of Jail TimePotentially Unsafe Med Scripts Up for Dual Users With DementiaScans Show Changes in Some Soldiers With Mild Brain InjuriesAlzheimer's Protein Plaques May Also Harm the HeartCan Occupational Therapy Slow Alzheimer's Decline?Fewer Americans Suffering From Dementia, Study FindsPoor Sense of Smell May Signal Alzheimer's RiskSome Elderly With Alzheimer's Brain Plaques Stay SharpMRI May Help ID Lewy Body Dementia Versus Alzheimer'sBrain Scans May Improve Dementia Diagnosis, TreatmentHealth Tip: Recognizing Traumatic Brain InjuryCould Loneliness Be an Early Sign of Alzheimer's?Resistance Training Beneficial in Mild Cognitive ImpairmentStudy Links Disasters to DementiaAnimal Study Hints at Gene Therapy's Possible Promise for Alzheimer'sHigh Blood Pressure May Hike Dementia RiskStudy Finds Fault With ICU Treatment of Dementia PatientsWomen's Memory Advantage Might Skew Alzheimer's DiagnosisDeep Brain Stimulation May Improve TBI SymptomsCan Brain 'Pacemaker' Improve Lives of Head Trauma Patients?Antidepressant Might Prevent Depression Following Brain Injury9/11 Responders May Be at Higher Risk for Early DementiaEven a Little Exercise May Help Stave Off Dementia
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Can Occupational Therapy Slow Alzheimer's Decline?

HealthDay News
by By Amy NortonHealthDay Reporter
Updated: Nov 21st 2016

new article illustration

MONDAY, Nov. 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Home-based occupational therapy may not slow down the physical decline that comes with Alzheimer's disease, a new clinical trial suggests.

The study looked at whether home visits from occupational therapists could put the brakes on Alzheimer's patients' "functional decline."

As the brain disorder progresses, it's not only memory that fades, but also day-to-day functioning. People gradually lose their ability to perform routine tasks -- such as making meals, using household items and bathing and dressing.

The goal of occupational therapy is to help family caregivers manage those difficulties. Sessions might address safe bathing or helping a loved one in and out of a car, for instance.

In the two-year study, the hope was that weaving occupational therapy into Alzheimer's patients' primary care would slow down their functional decline.

But that did not happen, said lead researcher Dr. Christopher Callahan, founding director of Indiana University's Center for Aging Research.

He called the findings "disappointing," but also said that occupational therapy can still be useful in managing Alzheimer's.

"There is still a role for occupational therapy in helping with specific impairments," Callahan said.

And others said the study did not fully measure all of the ways the therapy could benefit patients and family caregivers -- like boosting their quality of life.

Past studies have found that getting "home support" can improve caregivers' well-being, for instance, said Susan Stark, an assistant professor of occupational therapy, neurology and social work at Washington University in St. Louis.

According to Stark, the measurements used in this study may not have been "subtle enough" to capture certain benefits.

Plus, she said, the number of sessions may have fallen short: Families typically had 18 home visits over two years.

"It makes me wonder if there was a dose issue," Stark said.

In the real world, occupational therapy is not an automatic part of Alzheimer's care. But doctors may prescribe it on a case-by-case basis, Stark said.

Typically, an occupational therapist goes to the patient's home and recommends changes that can make daily living easier and safer. They may help the family remove fall risks, or use equipment to make bathrooms safer and more accessible, for example, Stark said.

Beyond that, therapists often use exercise to improve patients' strength and balance. They can also help caregivers learn to manage difficult behavior, or adapt activities that their loved one once enjoyed, such as gardening, to give them some mental stimulation.

Results of the new study were published Nov. 21 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

For the study, Callahan's team recruited 180 Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers. All were given so-called "collaborative care," whereby an advanced practice nurse coordinated each patient's overall care.

In an earlier study, the researchers found that the collaborative approach helped reduce patients' behavioral problems and ease their caregivers' stress.

"In that first study, we wanted to see if we could help families with behavioral issues like wandering, agitation, or asking the same questions over and over again," Callahan explained.

"We noticed that while behavioral symptoms improved, patients' physical decline continued," he said.

So in this study, half of the families were randomly assigned to receive occupational therapy in addition to collaborative care.

But after two years, the researchers found, there was no evidence that the extra therapy had slowed patients' functional decline.

Still, the findings are based on one relatively small study, said Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer's Association.

"It's difficult to draw conclusions from a single study," Fargo said. "I don't think this means that it's 'case closed' on occupational therapy for Alzheimer's."

He also agreed that it's important to better understand the impact on patients' and caregivers' quality of life.

For now, these specialists agreed occupational therapy can be useful to Alzheimer's patients' families.

"The underlying biology of the disease will continue. Occupational therapy can't change that," Stark said. "But having more environmental support may help patients stay safe and independent at home for a longer time."

To Callahan, his team's findings highlight the challenges family caregivers face. He said "more intensive" efforts will be needed to help them deal with the functional decline that comes with Alzheimer's.

That, Callahan said, might mean more extensive home modifications, better assistive devices and more community services.

More information

The American Occupational Therapy Association has more on living with Alzheimer's.