More than 10 million people are diagnosed with dementia every year, and while it’s largely viewed as a condition that affects our mental health, it can also take a significant toll on our physical health. Because of this, physical therapy is actually considered a very helpful treatment option for individuals following a dementia diagnosis. Below, we explain how physical therapy can make life easier for those with dementia.
How PT Can Help After A Dementia Diagnosis
Physical therapy can help to improve the physical, emotional and social health of those dealing with a dementia diagnosis. Let’s take a closer look at each:
- Physical Health – While the main association with the condition is how it affects a person’s mental health, it can also greatly impact their physical health. For example, falls are a significant health risk of elderly individuals, especially those with dementia. Dementia can affect our balance and our gait, which can make it more difficult for individuals to stay on their feet. Moreover, as we get older, blood pressure changes as we go from sitting to standing can throw off our balance. Many older individuals wait a moment once they’ve stood to help account for these potential changes and reduce their fall risk, but individuals with dementia may not remember to pause before movement, which can increase their fall risk.
- Physical therapy exercises that focus on balance improvements and gait training can help patients with dementia reduce their fall risk. A PT routine can also help improve cardiovascular health to reduce the likelihood that blood pressure changes affect your balance.
- Emotional Benefits – Physical therapy and movement exercises can help to release endorphins in your brain that control and regulate feelings of happiness and calmness. Completing a regular physical therapy routine can also give seniors more confidence in their physical abilities, and this confidence is directly tied to mental and emotional well-being. Perhaps most importantly, studies have shown that physical therapy may help slow cognitive decline in patients with dementia.
- Social – With these physical and emotional improvements, it should come as no surprise that patients who regularly pursue physical therapy as a dementia treatment also see an increase in their social well-being. Increased confidence and physical ability are directly tied to more independence and quality of life increases.
As you can see, physical therapy isn’t just for physical injuries or after joint replacement surgery. PT can help a patient get tangible health benefits for a wide variety of conditions, including those that affect our brain and mental health.
So if you or someone you know is dealing with a mental health condition or has been diagnosed with the early stages of dementia, talk with your doctor or a physical therapist to see if a PT program could help stave off the effects of the condition. For more information, or to talk to one of our licensed physical therapists, give the team at OrthoRehab Specialists a call today at (612) 339-2041.
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