In recognition of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, our Silver Spring physical therapists discuss the important role that therapists can play in managing symptoms

silver spring physical therapists alzheimer's awareness month

June 12, 2019

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, and as with every other year, it presents an opportunity to hold a conversation and educate the public about why Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are considered a major public health issue.  So whether you know someone affected by these conditions or are simply interested in learning more, you stand to gain something by reading on and participating. To contribute to this conversation, our Silver Spring physical therapists explain how patients are affected by Alzheimer’s disease and the important role that physical therapy can play in managing patients’ symptoms.

Dementia is a general term used to describe a group of symptoms related to a decline in memory or other thinking skills that impairs a person’s ability to function normally in everyday life.  It affects about 47 million people worldwide and at least 5 million in the U.S., and the number of patients is expected to grow as the population ages.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of all dementia cases, and it causes a variety of problems with memory, thinking, and behavior.  Symptoms usually come on slowly but tend to grow worse with time, often becoming so severe that it’s difficult to complete everyday tasks.

There is currently no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease from occurring and no cure has yet been found for those affected by it, but treatments are available.  Unfortunately, current treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from progressing, but they can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve patients’ quality of life in a number of ways.  One of the more effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease that should be considered a crucial part of a management plan is physical therapy.

Physical therapists are movement experts that work with patients individually to find ways to help them move more often and more efficiently.  Research continues to show that regular physical activity is one of the best ways to improve brain health, and for Alzheimer’s patients, it’s been shown to improve balance, blood flow to the brain, endurance, flexibility, and strength.  Increasing physical activity is a core component of all physical therapy treatment programs, and studies have specifically shown that therapy can help manage Alzheimer’s symptoms in four ways.

Our Silver Spring physical therapists break down four ways that therapy can help Alzheimer’s patients

  • 1) Improves mood: regular physical activity—one of the primary goals of physical therapy—has been shown to improve mood and reduce aggression in patients with Alzheimer’s; in addition, one study has found that one hour of physical therapy per week significantly reduced depression symptoms, while another found that Alzheimer’s patients who regularly participated in physical therapy over two years had fewer hospitalizations related to behavioral problems
  • 2) Increases mobility and strength: Alzheimer’s often affects balance and can increase the risk of falls, but regular physical therapy focuses on keeping bones and muscles strong as coordination declines, which will serve as a counterbalance to this risk
  • 3) Helps patients maintain independence in daily life: since many patients are unable to get through their days without assistance, physical therapists will work on practicing common daily activities and empower patients to become more independent in their abilities; physical therapists can also help friends and family members create a safe environment for their loved one with Alzheimer’s by eliminating potential hazards and obstacles
  • 4) Slows the loss of memory: loss of memory is a major issue for Alzheimer’s patients, but regular physical activity through physical therapy has been found to improve blood flow to the brain, and research has shown that this can lead to growth in parts of the brain responsible for memory

Alzheimer’s disease is often a daunting diagnosis, but this doesn’t mean nothing can be done to help patients lead a better and more fulfilling life.  So if you or a loved one is affected by Alzheimer’s disease, our Silver Spring physical therapists would like to offer our services. Contact CAM Physical Therapy and Wellness Services at 240-547-4304 to schedule an appointment at any of our four clinics in Hyattsville, Laurel, Glenn Dale/Bowie, or our newest location in Silver Spring, MD, or click herefor more information on physical therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.