What Other Therapies Help Someone With Dementia?

Medically Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky, MD on September 06, 2022
3 min read

If your loved one has dementia, their mental ability and memory loss might be getting so bad it is affecting their daily life. Perhaps they've been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the most common type of dementia. How your loved one’s doctor treats their dementia depends on what’s causing it.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop or slow dementia. But in addition to medicines that help manage symptoms, there are different types of therapies, and even counseling, that may help your loved one with daily life.

An occupational therapist can evaluate your loved one’s strengths, weaknesses, and ability to understand where they most need help. With the therapist, they can work on improving some of their physical skills.

The therapist can also assist in making their home safer and better adapted to their needs. For example, an occupational therapist can:

  • Organize their closet so only their clothes for the current season are available to them
  • Make sure there’s a fence around their yard, so they won’t wander down the street
  • Find easier versions of activities they used to enjoy, so they can continue doing them (such as easier puzzles, for example)

Physical therapists can help your loved one improve their balance and lower their chances of falling. The exercise can also be good for their mood.

Keep in mind that dementia might make it hard for them to tell you if they are in pain. The physical therapist can check on that and help treat it if they are having pain.

This is a type of counseling. The therapist will pay close attention to your loved one’s feelings. They might study their voice and body language, and put less importance on what they're actually saying. They can “validate” their feelings by saying things like, “I can see that you’re feeling angry.” Just knowing that someone understands can make them feel better.

In these sessions, your loved one and their therapist will repeat information about the time, place, and other facts together on a regular basis. It can help them stay oriented to the present moment, and hopefully make them feel less confused. Also putting things in their home like large clocks and calendars can make it easier.

It’s not for everyone. Reality orientation may not be safe to practice with a person who believes they're in a different time or place. In that case, reality therapy could upset them.

Depression is common in people with dementia, especially in the early and middle stages of memory loss. But their symptoms may come and go.

Talk to your doctor because some medications can cause similar symptoms. They may want to prescribe antidepressant medications for your loved one, and might suggest counseling, as well. Some additional things that can help with depression include:

  • Support groups
  • Predictable daily routine
  • Celebrations of small successes
  • Being a part of family life
  • Doing activities that they find inspiring
  • Hearing repeatedly that they are loved and will get good care