Occupational therapy may have the potential to slow down functional decline and reduce behavioural troubles
A French observational study in real life showed that dementia patients benefiting from occupational therapy sessions report relevant clinical benefits over the intervention period, according to a research study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease this month. The research suggested the influence of occupational therapy on reducing behavioural troubles, caregivers’ burden and amount of informal care over the intervention period and a stabilisation over the 3-months period thereafter.
The research was conducted on a network of 16 specialised Alzheimer team in Aquitaine, South West of France and was supported by the regional agency of Health.
The study’s results indicate that behavioural troubles, caregivers’ burden, amount of informal care provided by caregivers and patients’ quality of life were significantly reduced over the 3-month intervention period and remained stable thereafter. Cognitive performances remained stable over the 6-month study period and functional performances remained stable over the 3-month intervention period but were significantly reduced thereafter. Moreover, patients who had been diagnosed more recently and those with milder cognitive deficits may gain more benefits from occupational therapy in terms of functional decline or caregivers’ burden decline. These findings suggest that occupational therapy should target early dementia stages in order to optimise its potential clinical benefits.
In many Western countries, recent national guidelines have aimed at improving home dementia care. This study highlights the potential occupational therapy in terms of patients’ and their caregivers’ well-being. The findings also opens a new field of research on occupational therapy. Indeed, occupational therapy has been conceptualised as a short-term home intervention, but long-term benefits and consequences of disruption are unknown. “Future studies should explore more in detail which sub-groups of patients could gain more benefits from OT as well as its long-term clinical effects notably on global care quality and users’ satisfaction” stated Clément Pimouguet.
Moreover, strategies aiming to improve initial benefits of occupational therapy should be promoted. The French research team will conduct a randomised trial that aim to compare the maintenance of occupational therapy over an additional 4-month period and usual occupation therapy as recommended.
Source: Sciencemag, 2016