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Occupational Therapy Benefits Dementia Patients

Community-based intervention also reduces burden on caregivers

FRIDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the fact that patients with dementia have limited learning ability, community-based occupational therapy improves their daily functioning and also has benefits for their caregivers, according to research published online Nov. 17 in BMJ.

Maud J.L. Graff, M.Sc., of the University Medical Center Nijmegen in the Netherlands, and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial of 135 community-based patients aged 65 and older with mild to moderate dementia and their caregivers. Those in the intervention group received 10 sessions of occupational therapy over a period of five weeks. The therapy comprised cognitive and behavioral interventions aimed at compensating for cognitive decline, while caregivers were given training in coping skills and supervision.

At six weeks, 84 percent of those who received occupational therapy showed improvements in motor skills while 78 percent needed less assistance in daily tasks and the benefits remained at 12 weeks' follow-up. Caregivers' sense of competence was measured using a questionnaire and those in the intervention group also showed sustained improvements.

"Because outcomes such as improvement in activities of daily living and sense of competence are associated with a decrease in need for assistance, we believe that, in the long term, occupational therapy will result in less dependence on social and health care resources and less need for institutionalization," the authors conclude.

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