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Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to a set of symptoms caused by a significant loss of brain cells which in turn leads to a decline in the brain's activities.

Memory, mood and communication are affected and dementia also results in reduced mobility and the ability to carry out everyday tasks.

Our specialist physiotherapists are able to provide personalised treatment specific to the individual to increase mobility, function and independence and work with families and carers to improve the individual's quality of life.


What is Dementia?



Dementia is a syndrome caused by a range of illnesses that result in a progressive deterioration in cognitive function due to injury in the brain caused by disease or trauma.

Dementia is a progressive syndrome which is usually incurable but its progression can be slowed by drug therapy, cognitive therapy and physiotherapy.

Those over 65 are at a much higher risk of developing dementia due to the natural deterioration of cells throughout the ageing process. Approximately 1 in 15 over the age of 65 develops dementia and this increases to 1 in 5 of those over 85.

Symptoms of dementia can vary greatly between individuals but memory, attention, communication and problem solving are most commonly affected. As the syndrome progresses they may struggle to orientate themselves in space and time and a reduction in mobility usually leads to an increased risk of falls.

Dementia is not only a frightening diagnosis for the individual but it has a huge impact on their loved ones and carers. Maintaining the individual's independence through promotion of activity and gentle exercise can not only improve physical health but also overall mood and cognition thereby helping to slow their deterioration.





Our physiotherapist helping a patient with dementia to imporve their ability to get out of bed independantly.Above: Our physiotherapist helping a patient with dementia to imporve their ability to get out of bed independantly.



What causes Dementia?



Dementia is usually caused by disease but can be caused by trauma to the head.

The main diseases which can cause dementia are:
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Fronto Temporal Dementia (including Pick's disease)
The following diseases are much rarer causes of dementia:
  • Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • HIV infection
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Down's syndrome
  • Korsakoff's syndrome
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Motor Neurone Disease

How is Dementia diagnosed?



The diagnosis of dementia can be difficult, particularly in the early stages as the symptoms can be inconsistent and could be explained by other factors such as stress, depression or an infection for example.

The 3 main symptoms of dementia are usually:
  • A decline in memory, reasoning and communication skills
  • A progressive loss of the capacity to carry out daily tasks
  • Confusion
Your GP will usually begin by looking at your symptoms and medical history before performing physical tests to rule out any other possible causes of confusion. They may also require you to carry out some mental tests to assess cognition and memory.

Your GP may feel able to make a diagnosis at this stage or you may be referred to a specialist such as a neurologist or psychiatrist for further tests.

As part of the assessment it may be necessary to scan your brain to identify any conditions indicated. Scans commonly used include:
  • CT scans (computerised tomography)
  • MRI scans (magnetic resonance imaging)
  • SPECT scans (single photon emission computerised tomography)
It is important to get a proper diagnosis of dementia in order to rule out any other possible causes of your symptoms and to ensure that you are prescribed the correct medication.


What problems caused by Dementia can physiotherapy help with?



Physiotherapy plays an important role in maintaining the independence of an individual with dementia through promoting activity to maintain physical health and improve mood and cognition.

Our neurological physiotherapists can create specialised programmes to help with the following:
  • Reduced balance and poor posture
  • Difficulty performing functional activities such as walking, using the stairs, standing and getting in and out of bed
  • Muscle and joint stiffness
  • Weak muscles
  • Decreased mobility
  • Poor quality sleep (helped by regular activity)

How does physiotherapy help Dementia?



Physiotherapy can have a huge difference on quality of life for a person suffering with dementia. Our specialist physiotherapists are experienced in working with those with dementia and their families and carers. We understand that dementia affects each person differently and that being safe and independent at home is something not to be taken for granted.

We understand that dementia sufferers are more comfortable in familiar surroundings so we offer home visits to enable us to fully assess the individual and their home environment.

Following assessment we can implement a programme to increase mobility and help prevent falls in the home to increase independence and safety.

We are also experts at recommending any aids and adaptations which may help you.

Physiotherapy can reduce an individual's fear of falling, increase independence and quality of life and enable them to remain in their own home for as long as possible.

It has also been shown that regular physical activity helps to improve cognition, motivation, mood and improve sleep quality.


What would physiotherapy treatment for dementia involve?



Physiotherapy treatment for those with dementia is personalised for each individual following a full assessment of their physical condition and also of their home environment if required.

The aim of physiotherapy treatment is to increase mobility, reduce risk of falls and increase independence.

In order to do this a physiotherapy treatment plan may include:
  • Thorough assessment of the individual's ability to perform daily tasks such as bed mobility, standing, sitting, walking and using the stairs in order to identify difficulties to tailor the treatments around these areas
  • Exercises for balance and strengthening
  • Stretches to reduce stiffness
  • Advice on walking aids or equipment
  • Implementation of a falls prevention exercise programme
  • Acupuncture
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Seating/wheelchair assessments
  • Education for the individual and their families and/or carers about dementia
Any treatment plan created by our physiotherapists is done so with the patient in mind to increase their quality of life.


How do I arrange a physiotherapy appointment for Dementia?



In order to arrange an assessment with one of our expert neurological physiotherapists then please email us at office@liverpoolphysio.co.uk or call us on 0151 558 0077.


Summary



Dementia is a progressive deterioration in brain cells leading to decline in cognitive function. Memory, orientation and communication all are affected in addition, to the physical changes. Physiotherapy in the early stages is paramount in preserving strength, mobility and balance; all contributing to the reduced risk of falls. Physiotherapy treatment can take place in the home for the benefit of familiar surroundings and adaptation assessment.

To book a physiotherapy assessment for yourself or for a loved one with dementia, please call 0151 558 0077 or e-mail the team at Liverpool Physio at office@liverpoolphysio.co.uk

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