Cognitive Therapy for Alzheimer's Disease: what do we do and how?
Disease Description and Epidemiology
Alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia that causes a global, progressive and irreversible deterioration of several cognitive functions (memory, attention, concentration, language, thinking, among others). This deterioration results in changes in the person's behavior, personality, and functional capacity, making it difficult to carry out daily activities.
The name of this disease is due to Alois Alzheimer, a German doctor who in 1907, described for the first time the disease.
In Portugal, in the absence of an epidemiological study that portrays the real situation of the problem, we can refer to data from Alzheimer Europe that point to more than 193,500 people with this dementia (Alzheimer Europe, 2019).
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages, Alzheimer's disease symptoms can be very subtle.
However, they often start with lapses in memory and difficulty finding the
right words for everyday objects. These symptoms worsen as brain cells die and
communication between them is altered. Other symptoms include:
- Persistent and frequent memory difficulties, especially of recent events;
- Vague speech during conversations;
- Lack of enthusiasm in carrying out activities that were previously significant and appreciated;
- Delays in performing routine activities;
- Lack of memory about known people or places;
- Inability to understand questions and instructions;
- Deterioration of social skills;
- Emotional unpredictability.
Depending on the people and brain areas affected, symptoms may vary and the disease will progress at a different rate. The person's abilities can change from day to day or even on the day and can worsen in periods of stress, fatigue, and other challenges that arise, including the patient's own health problems. However, since this disease is currently irreversible, it will show deterioration over time. Alzheimer's disease is progressive and degenerative.
Cognitive Therapy for Alzheimer's Disease
Therapy aims at training memory (especially implicit memory and procedural memory), as well as other executives' functions, including those related to activities of daily living.
Most of the common illnesses associated with dementia are progressive in nature and the rehabilitation goals change over the course of treatment, that is, as the patient's needs change, the rehabilitation processes in question also change. This is what happens in Alzheimer's disease.
Some treatment approaches are considered compensatory and others are restorative.
Compensatory treatment approaches focus on training specific methods and individual skills to compensate or overcome deficits that are not recoverable.
Restorative treatments involve direct therapy with the aim of improving or restoring impaired functions.
In our work, we assume the ethical responsibility to provide services that maximize the functioning of the executive functions and the communication of the patient in relation to his / her social and family environment, in all stages of the disease process.
Decisions about treatment goals and options are made in collaboration with the individual, family, caregivers, and other health professionals, including doctors, nursing teams, and neuropsychologists involved in the process.
At the beginning and during the course of treatment, we share information about the situation with the individual and, if authorized, we share information as possible with the family and caregivers, and provide family psychotherapy and training for informal caregivers.
We work on a person-centered intervention, that is, we focus on maximizing the patient's ability to participate in activities that are meaningful to him.
By developing a treatment plan and formulating functional goals for the patient, we transform our work into something personal and unique. Why? Because each person is unique and singular in his/ her journey.
In addition, we always consider the patient's cultural and linguistic background, his/ her social history, the current social context, communication needs and personal desires.
It is imperative that we also know about expectations for continued care overtime, including future feeding and swallowing guidelines.
In summary, the goal of cognitive therapy treatment in Alzheimer's Disease is to maximize the individual's quality of life and communication success, using any approach or combination of approaches that meets the person's needs and values.
We are here to assist you.
If you need support, for yourself or a family member or friend, get in touch using this website form or call 915046634 (Fernanda Barata) directly.
This article was written based on the current scientific evidence on Alzheimer's Disease and is sponsored by: