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Physiotherapy For Dementia

How Physiotherapy Can Help Dementia Patients?

Have you ever wondered how physiotherapy can play a role in enhancing the lives of those with dementia? This neurodegenerative condition challenges millions, but targeted physical therapy can significantly bolster both body and mind.

At Proremedy Physiotherapy Mississauga, we dedicate our expertise to unlocking the physical and emotional benefits of physiotherapy for people with dementia, aiming to improve their quality of life and everyday activities.

Today we will guide you through the vital information about dementia, from its types and stages to how physiotherapy can serve as a powerful ally in the management of people affected by this condition.

We’ll explore various physio exercises tailored for dementia patients and highlight the overarching benefits of incorporating regular physical activity into their daily routines.

What is Dementia?

Dementia is a medical condition of the nervous system, which results in deterioration in the area of cognitive functions, including memory, reasoning, and decision-making.

This deterioration is already causing inconvenience for normal life which is more than just a normal feature of old age. Dementia is featured by poor working memory, and difficulties, flaws or impairment of thinking, thinking, and language.

It is triggered by many diseases and trauma leading to brain damage as a primary or secondary impact. For instance, the cases in which Alzheimer’s or stroke is diagnosed.

Those with dementia often go through several changes in their mood and some kinds of behaviour as well, and frequently find it hard to follow their everyday schedules. Dementia refers to a group of conditions that involve the decline of memory attached to confusion in daily living.

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What Are the Types of Dementia?

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the most widespread case of dementia, damaged memory, perception, and behaviour. Initially, symptoms are mild, such as forgetfulness, and then as the disease progresses, it affects cognitive abilities as well as memory to a greater extent leading to severe mental decline.

The disease can be referred to as a type of dementia as it is accompanied by the accumulation of amyloid plaques and tau tangles in the brain that eventually disrupt normal neural function and lead to the main symptoms of the disease.

Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia, the second most common type of dementia, is related to no longer sufficient blood circulation to the brain, which is typical for a stroke.

This disruption may lead to structural imperfection in the brain and the disruption of cognitive functions resulting in the malfunctioning of thinking, planning, problem-solving, judgment, and memory. Usually, symptoms become obvious with difficulty in performing complex tasks and slower thinking in the case of vascular dementia.

Lewy Body Dementia

Lewy Body Dementia in turn is stamped by the presence of Lewy bodies which are abnormal protein deposits containing alpha-synuclein accumulation in the brain. The manifestation of this type of dementia could be dramatic by way of very noticeable cognitive impairment, extreme alertness, hallucinations, and movement disorders.

Furthermore, the phenotype changes of this type are somewhat like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, and therefore, it is difficult to control and diagnose.

Frontotemporal Dementia

The core symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia include behavioral and language disturbances as the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are involved. This can be seen through the sudden personality changes, emotional apathy, and linguistic and communication impairments. Different from the others, memory, may stay good whereas social and executive functions might be the ones getting weaker over time.

Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia occurs when changes representing more than one type of dementia occur simultaneously in the brain. Most commonly, it involves characteristics of both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Symptoms may vary depending on the types of brain changes occurring and the brain areas affected, making it a complex condition to recognize and treat.

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia

Parkinson’s Disease Dementia is a decline in thinking and reasoning that develops in many people living with Parkinson’s disease, typically in the later stages. Symptoms include memory loss, muddled thought processes, and trouble concentrating. As it progresses, it shares many similarities with Lewy Body Dementia, given the common underlying protein deposits in the brain.

What Are the Stages of Dementia?

Early Stage (Mild Dementia)

In the initial phase of Dementia people are still able to take care of themselves and regularly perform daily tasks but they may experience some loss of memory such as forgetting time or losing their missing items.

One of the most obvious early symptoms observed is the slight alteration of the executives’ behaviour, with the inability to register new memories or learn new information. In the early stages, the carers may remind those with mild dementia of their daily jobs.

Middle Stage (Moderate Dementia)

In the intermediate phase, the dementia starts being more evident. External signs such as being unable to perform trivial tasks may manifest themselves as well as very important ones such as personality and behavioural change.

It is enough to say that the memory will be exceedingly worse, but also the names of people will be forgotten. Communication problems are seen as well as other confusions where the person doesn’t know where he is or what day it is.

Late Stage (Severe Dementia)

In the late stage of dementia, individuals require extensive care. They may lose the ability to communicate effectively and no longer recognize loved ones.

Physical abilities decline significantly, necessitating assistance with most activities of daily living, such as eating and bathing. This stage is characterized by near-total dependence and markedly diminished physical function.

How Can Physiotherapy Help in Managing Dementia?

Physiotherapy can be a critical component in managing dementia, offering several benefits that enhance quality of life and functional abilities:

  • Improves Muscle Strength and Joint Health: Regular physical exercises help maintain or even improve muscle strength and joint flexibility, which are crucial for daily mobility and independence.
  • Enhances Balance and Reduces Fall Risk: Physiotherapy includes balance exercises that help reduce the likelihood of falls, a common risk for individuals with dementia, thus enhancing safety in daily activities.
  • Boosts Cardiovascular Health: Engaging in aerobic exercises, such as walking or swimming, can improve heart health and circulation, potentially slowing the progression of symptoms related to cognitive declines.
  • Supports Neuroplasticity: Physical activity is thought to promote brain plasticity, which can help maintain cognitive functions longer by possibly creating new neural connections.
  • Improves Mood and Mental Health: Exercise has well-documented benefits for mental health, including reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which can accompany dementia.

What Physio Exercises are Recommended for Dementia Patients?

Aerobic Exercises

Aerobic activities are essential for improving cardiovascular health and promoting blood flow to the brain, which may enhance cognitive function. Recommended exercises for an active lifestyle include:

  • Walking, either outdoors or on a treadmill.
  • Light jogging, tailored to the individual’s capability.
  • Swimming or water aerobics, which are easier on the joints while providing resistance. These exercises help maintain endurance and are vital in managing weight and enhancing overall well-being in dementia patients.

Strength Training

Maintaining muscle strength is crucial for physical function and independence. Strength training for dementia patients can include:

  • Use of light weights or resistance bands.
  • Bodyweight exercises such as seated chair exercises.
  • Simple, supervised weightlifting, focusing on major muscle groups to help with daily tasks. Strength training helps combat muscle atrophy and assists with better mobility.

Balance Exercises

Improving balance can significantly reduce the risk of falls, a common concern in dementia care. Effective balance exercises include:

  • Tai Chi or similar gentle martial arts, which improve both balance and relaxation.
  • Standing on one foot or walking heel to toe, assisted as necessary.
  • Using a balance board under supervision. These activities help enhance stability and confidence in moving.

Flexibility Exercises

Flexibility is key to maintaining range of motion and reducing stiffness. Stretching exercises can be beneficial and may include:

  • Gentle stretching of arms, legs, and back.
  • Yoga, is modified to suit the person’s abilities and safety needs.
  • Pilates focused on slow, controlled movements and breathing. Regular flexibility exercises help improve joint health and ease movements.

Coordination Exercises

Coordination exercises help synchronize movements and improve overall physical function, important for performing everyday activities. These can include:

  • Ball exercises, like catching or tossing a softball.
  • Dance therapy, can also be enjoyable and socially engaging.
  • Simple sequence movements, like tapping a pattern on a table. These activities not only enhance coordination but also engage the mind, providing a cognitive challenge.

Summing It!

Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in managing dementia, offering a wide range of physical benefits that can significantly improve daily life. Healthcare professionals can tailor physical therapy exercises and treatment plans to address specific symptoms of dementia, helping to stabilize blood pressure, manage heart rate, and mitigate cognitive issues.

Regular exercise has been shown to not only enhance physical capabilities but also contribute to cognitive rehabilitation. The comprehensive care for people with dementia provided by these therapies can lessen the overall impact of the diagnosis, ensuring a better quality of life across various forms of dementia.

Picture of Physiotherapist Arpan Hundal

Physiotherapist Arpan Hundal

Arpan has been practicing as a physiotherapist since 2010, starting her career in a trauma center in India where she worked with post-traumatic and post-operative cases. She moved to Canada and continued her independent practice, specializing in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic issues, sports injuries, and pelvic health physiotherapy. She has experience dealing with MVA and WSIB clients and has been working in the Mississauga community since 2015.

Picture of Physiotherapist Arpan Hundal

Physiotherapist Arpan Hundal

Arpan has been practicing as a physiotherapist since 2010, starting her career in a trauma center in India where she worked with post-traumatic and post-operative cases. She moved to Canada and continued her independent practice, specializing in musculoskeletal, orthopaedic issues, sports injuries, and pelvic health physiotherapy. She has experience dealing with MVA and WSIB clients and has been working in the Mississauga community since 2015.