Dementia is a blanket term to describe a wide range of abnormal conditions or changes that affect a person’s brain. These changes can trigger a cognitive decline that not only affects their mental health, but their physical capabilities as well. A lot of people assume that treatment for dementia is solely focused on the brain, but patients with dementia oftentimes significantly benefit from a physical therapy program.
In today’s blog, we take a closer look at how dementia can affect a person’s physical capabilities and how a physical therapy routine can help.
The Physical Side Of Dementia
As we mentioned in the introduction, dementia is a prognosis that covers a wide range of medical conditions and abnormalities that affect the brain. These changes can lead to a number of cognitive problems, including:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty problem solving
- Communication problems
- Personality changes
However, these changes in your brain don’t just impact your mental health. They can also affect your visual and spatial abilities, coordination and balance and motor functions, which can make certain movements difficult or even unsafe. Studies have also shown that dementia progression can lead to muscular problems like stiff muscles, weak muscles and muscular fatigue. Physical tasks become harder and a person’s fall risk can skyrocket because of their physical limitations that have been directly or indirectly caused by their dementia progression.
Physical Therapy And Dementia
There is no known cure for dementia, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with dementia. As physical therapists, we oftentimes work with dementia patients to help prevent some of the physical issues that can come along with a diagnosis. Through an individualized physical therapy program, we can help to:
- Mitigate Fall Risk – Through balance and stability training, we can greatly help to reduce fall risk among older adults dealing with different stages of dementia.
- Increase Muscular Function – We can help strengthen muscles and get them used to performing healthy movement patterns, helping to prevent muscle stiffness or weakness.
- Slow Dementia Progression – Studies have shown that while dementia may not be able to be reversed, you can slow the progression through healthy habits like exercise, strength training and improvements in your cardiovascular health. Physical therapy not only challenges your body through movement, but it keeps you more able-bodied, allowing you to stay active and healthier when you’re not at the clinic.
- Keep Patients Independent – Many patients with early stage dementia are afraid of losing their independence, and physical therapy can help keep their physical functions sharp so that they can remain independent longer.
So if you or a parent have been diagnosed with dementia or are working through some cognitive changes, talk to your doctor about the benefits of a physical therapy program. Or better yet, reach out to our team directly and let us explain how we can help you. For more information, give our team a call today at (612) 339-2041.