Living Through Adapting: A Brief Discussion On Dementia Patients

dementiaCharles Darwin stated: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

Here at MediLodge of Sterling Heights we are developing a dementia unit that is geared towards optimizing levels of independence for the patients with dementia. The key to taking care of the dementia population is to adapt their environment so they can function at a level of independence that is important to them. There are myths that say the dementia population is not appropriate for therapy, that they cannot show improvement, and that they can’t follow directions. Although it is true that new tasks are difficult for them to learn, it is not impossible for them to adapt to changes. In the process of asking them to adapt to change, it is important for the family and caregivers to recognize the changes and encourage your loved ones.

There are many different types of dementia and they all progress differently and at different rates. What is uniform across all dementia is that memory is affected and basic motor plans become difficult. Science has proven that through sensory techniques, a patient can tap into their long term memory where muscle memory is stored, and learn new techniques. The strongest sense in the human body is the sense of smell as it is the only sense that does not travel through the nucleus. The nucleus is where plaque builds up and blocks other stimuli from getting to the short term memory part of the brain. For this reason, many treatments include using smell to help learn new tasks. When you are visiting your loved ones with dementia, try wearing a vanilla/cinnamon scented perfume or Jergen’s cherry almond lotion. These scents will bring back old memories and you will find that patient’s become more alert and engaging. Try bringing in old pictures and having discussions about childhood or about your loved one’s career. We as caregivers have to adapt to the fact that the short term memory is most significantly affected. Therefore, in order to enjoy your visit with your loved one, discuss their past and reminisce. If they are on a regular diet, bring in their favorite foods from their childhood to early adulthood. Their world is their reality and we as caregivers need to recognize that and go with it. By engaging in the conversation the patient wants to have, they will stay calm and enjoy their time spent visiting.

The Occupational Therapy Department is working with the nursing staff on the 300 unit to develop individualized programs for our patients with dementia. The evaluation process involves staging their level of cognition and a family interview that is aimed at finding out what is important to those patients. Therapy treatment involves adapting the environment to allow the individual to function as independently as possible. Each patient will have a list of activities that they are capable of completing and that are meaningful to their daily life. Therapy is completing treatment on their first set of patients on the unit, and these patients are performing their own laundry, identifying the times of their meals, and completing dressing tasks with only supervision. Our goal is to maximize independence and promote high quality living to our patients with dementia.


For more information on locations and services, visit the MediLodge website.  Find us on Facebook for up-to-date pictures or watch our YouTube channel for videos of events and activities.

MediLodge of Sterling Heights

MediLodge of Sterling Heights


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