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Health Matters

The role of Occupational Therapy in Dementia

Maria Rodrigues (Occupational Therapist) . 27/10/2016

“Occupational Therapy is based on the assumption that participation and occupation help structure daily life and promote health, functionality and wellbeing.” – (Townsend&Polatajko, 2007; Marques & Trigueiro, 2011)

What is Occupational Therapy and what is its purpose?

Occupational Therapy takes an active stand in promoting health and wellbeing with the help of (relevant) occupationalactivities. With a special focus on daily life problems, this kind of intervention reduces functional limitations and stimulatestheperformance of different functions, giving way to autonomy (the ability to decide) and independence on the accomplishment of activities and duties.

To achieve this goal the following is required:

• Enable patients for activities that improve participation abilities;

• Change the surrounding environment in order to provide a safer and more appropriate support for the intended participation.

How does Dementia influence one’s routine?

Despite individual specificities (each case should be treated separately), functional difficulties generally increase throughout the development of the disease.

Light Dementia

Manage money, prepare meals, decrease in general concern, difficulty in learning new skills and making decisions.

Moderate Dementia

DLA’s: Taking a shower, getting dressed, hygiene care, feeding and self-caring. Forgetting pots on the stove, leaving the gas turned on.

Severe Dementia

Walking, going to the toilet on their own, urinary and faecal incontinence. Need for total assistance on basic daily activities such as eating, taking a shower and getting dressed.

How are Occupational Therapy activities planned and how does it intervene?

Activities are planned in accordance with disease-related symptoms, needsanddifficulties identified by patient and caregivers (both informal and formal). In this process, lifestyle and interests of the person with dementia are also evaluated.

The occupational therapist may intervene with the help of:

• Cognitive stimulation activities related to DLA’s;

• Creative Expression Activities;

• Minds in Motion Sessions;

• Sensory Stimulation Sessions;

• Relaxation Sessions;

“Doing” is considered a basic human need. When it comes to aging, activity decrease in dementia should be compensated with other activities. (Almeida, 2011)

As family/caregiver you may stimulate preserved skills, during daily routine, aiming to promote a longer period of autonomy and independence, which will contribute to an increase in general wellbeing for the person with dementia (i.e. self-control and self-esteem) and consequently reduce mental and physical overburden for family members!


Dementia, besides being the most common cause for cognitive limitations on older people, is also the most frequent cause of impairment in occupational performance and the most severe impediment of access to better life quality for the person suffering from dementia and his/her family/caregivers.

And that’s why at Carnaxide Mental Health Clinic there is a specialized team entirely at your disposal for any doubts or counselling.

Please do not hesitate to contact us!

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