Dementia Patients have a Shot at Life with Home Physical Therapy
By: Dr. Abe Kopolovich, DPT, MBA, JD-IP
Did you know that dementia is the leading cause of disability for 5.6 million people over 65 years of age in the United States? As the country’s population ages, cognitive impairment is predicted to continue rising at high speed, even quadrupling the number of affected individuals by 2050.
Unfortunately, the challenges for dementia patients go beyond just memory loss. Most people diagnosed with cognitive impairment will also develop a physical disorder as a result of the degenerative disease, with the most common being stroke and heart disease.
Currently, there is no known cure for dementia. The treatment of these conditions normally focuses on using medicine to delay or prevent many of its key symptoms, such as falls, functional decline, and depression.
But what if physical therapists could help? Can in-home physical sessions save money, reduce hospitalization rates, and improve overall health?
Dementia and The Body
When we talk about early symptoms of dementia, those related to the brain are the first apparent red flags in a patient, like loss of cognitive skills, confusion, memory problems, and difficulty communicating.
However, as the disease progresses, the physical aspect becomes affected as well. Some of the most evident physical symptoms are:
- Impaired movement
- Impaired vision
- Loss of balance
- Coughing and choking
- Weight loss
Early diagnosis can help to slow down the pace in which these affections appear, but in most cases, they are inevitable. When the patient is eventually unable to seek outside help, in-home physical therapy plays a key role to improve their quality of life.
The Home Health Experts Speak Up
One of my go-to studies from The American Geriatrics Society tackles the topic of in-home physical therapy and dementia patients in great detail. For this, the clinicians observed a sample of 1,477 Medicare beneficiaries who had a primary diagnosis of dementia and home health function evaluations at discharge.
The results were very telling: the patients that received any amount of in-home physical therapy increased their probability of improvement in their physical functions and activities of daily living (ADL) by 15.2%. On top of this already optimistic outlook, those patients who had 6–13 physical therapy visits increased the probability of ADL improvement by 11.6%.
Studies like this one help to shed light on the importance of home physical therapy for more than just a broken bone or any type of tangible injury. We have the ability to heal those who are struggling with battles beyond our eyes.
Benefits of Home Physical Therapy for Dementia Patients
No matter what stage of the disease the patient is in, the advantages of physical therapy are perceptible in both clinical and day-to-day situations. The Alzheimer’s Society listed some proven benefits seen in real-life cases.
When a dementia patient starts in-home physical therapy, they:
- Improve the health of their heart and blood vessels, which further reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease (particularly for vascular dementia)
- Reduce the risk of getting some types of cancer (like breast and colon cancer), stroke and type 2 diabetes
- Maintain strong muscles and flexible joints, which helps them keep their independence for longer
- Retain the ability to perform daily activities on their own, like dressing, cleaning, cooking and more, preserving their sense of confidence and self-esteem
- Keep their bones strong and reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Slow down mental decline by staying active
- Lower the chance of falls by working on their strength and balance
- Get opportunities for social interaction to combat the feeling of isolation and keep depression at bay
In-home physical therapy gives elderly dementia patients the chance of living fulfilling lives despite their diagnosis. When most of them have severe difficulty coming to a doctor’s office, Therapy-In-Motion’s quality homecare services are here to make a significant impact in their wellbeing.
Are you ready to give your loved ones a second chance? Contact our office today to find out how we can help them live greatly!