Ask the Expert: Therapies for Dementia Care

Ashley Seace, Care Management Associate –


I am a health care professional and work with a variety of different Dementia patients. I am looking for more information on the types of Dementia, what to expect and what therapies may be beneficial to the individuals I work with and their families. Any information you can share would be helpful.


This is a great question! The different types of Dementias may exhibit differing behaviors and respond better to particular types of therapies. During a recent webinar with the Dementia Care Alliance of North Carolina, Latoya Galberth of Galberth Health provided some information that may help you determine the best course of action for the individuals you work with.

Understanding the language and acronyms of Demential treatment options is a great first step. The difference between therapy and rehabilitation, for example, is key in understanding how best to treat Dementia. Therapy is used to remediate a health problem that follows a medical diagnosis. Rehabilitation is used to help an individual become as independent as possible in their everyday activities through education, work, recreation, and meaningful life goals.

There are different acronyms used for different types of therapies. Each therapy covers a specific challenge or area. The most commonly used therapies are physical therapy (PT), speech-language pathology/speech therapy (ST), and occupational therapy (OT).

Physical therapy is comprised of movement experts use to enhance mobility and function through prescribed exercises, hands-on care, and patient education. This could include mobility activities, home assessments, or movement coordination skills.

Speech therapy is devoted to preventing, assessing, diagnosing, and treating speech, language, communication, cognitive, and even swallowing disorders. This could include diet modifications, word-finding tasks, or impulsivity control.

Occupational therapy works to build and/or restore the ability to perform day to day activities, and develop, recover, improve, and maintain those skills. This could include self-care tasks such as bathing and dressing, home safety assessments, or behavior management.

As you have probably experienced, individuals living with Dementia have some characteristics and behaviors that may be helped by these different therapies. You may have noticed behaviors including slowed movement, story repetition, impaired recall, difficulty with self-care (bathing, dressing, toileting, grooming), poor balance or fall risk, or a decrease in social participation and community outings. In order to determine what therapy would best suit the individual, you will need to look at their Dementia diagnosis.

Based on the specific dementia diagnosis, the individual can benefit from different therapies. For instance, someone living with Alzheimer’s Disease will respond differently to therapy than someone living with Frontotemporal Dementia because their brains are affected differently. If both of these individuals are having trouble with communication, someone with Alzheimer’s may respond better to a speech therapist and not an occupational therapist like someone with Frontotemporal Dementia might. Or certain behaviors in Alzheimer’s, Vascular, and Lewy Body Dementia may be managed with help from a physical therapist or occupational therapist, but a speech therapist could be of help to someone with Frontotemporal Dementia. What does the individual need? Transfer capabilities? Communication enhancement? Help with self-care tasks? Or does the family need hands-on training and education?

There are therapists for all of these issues!

Regardless of the diagnosis, seeking out a professional can yield positive results. The different therapists can provide education, skill support, and resources to the caregiver as well.

Professional therapists can provide support for the caregiver who is working on these tasks outside of the sessions with a therapist. A care manager is another professional who can help with maintaining autonomy as one ages. Care managers can provide social services, care planning, coordination of care and resources, and advocacy for the individual.

The benefits of therapy in Dementia Care can far outweigh any negatives. Therapy leads to an improved quality of life through building strength, increasing the ability to communicate, or maintaining the necessary skills for daily living. Not only is a patient’s physical quality improved, but they can also maintain their dignity and independence, which is something everyone desires as they age. The caregiver’s burden is decreased as the individual’s quality of life improves. The caregiver may no longer feel the burden from having to do every task for the individual. Therapy does not just relieve the burden of the caregiver; it relieves the individual’s feeling of being a burden to their caregiver because they are able to complete different tasks for a longer period of time and maintain their independence.

Overall, working with your client or family member to gain independence back through therapeutic means, regardless of the type of therapy, will strengthen the relationship you have

with them. Building that relationship is one of the most important and beneficial things you can do for someone during the aging process.

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Ask the Expert: Therapies for Dementia Care was last modified: June 21st, 2023 by Sprout Media Lab Testing