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Dementia is a loss of cognitive ability in a person who was previously unimpaired. It is an umbrella term that describes a set of symptoms that occur when the brain is damaged by certain conditions. A lack of cognitive ability can significantly impact on an individual’s physical presentation. Physiotherapy can help an individual with dementia to remain as independent as possible with mobility and the ability to carry out normal activities of daily living.

Symptoms of dementia

The individual with dementia may appear confused, disorientated and delusional. This means they may not be able to say what month or season it is and may believe they are in a different country or year. If they are repeatedly questioned on these matters, they may become anxious, agitated and sometimes aggressive. Individuals with dementia often have changeable moods and can appear depressed or withdrawn. Sometimes they may be inappropriate in public places such as speaking too loudly, being rude or getting undressed without reason. Often it can be difficult to communicate with someone with dementia due to their reduced memory and poor reasoning skills. It is essential that family and carers of individuals with dementia have a clear understanding of the condition and utilise the best possible methods of communication.

Functional rehabilitation exercises assisted by specilaist PhysiotherapistAbove: Functional rehabilitation exercises assisted by specilaist Physiotherapist

Types of dementia

Dementia can be fixed or progressive in nature. A fixed cognitive impairment is caused by a traumatic brain injury and does not get worse over time. A slowly progressive dementia does get worse over time and generally affects adults over the age of 65.

The most common types of dementia are Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy-bodys, fronto-temporal dementia, Korsakoff’s syndrome and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Causes of dementia

The specific cause of dementia is not known. However, the risk of developing dementia is increased by high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and an inactive lifestyle. A medical history of Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Down’s syndrome or HIV and a family history of dementia also increases the risk. Smoking, alcohol intake and obesity are risk factors that can be modified and reduced with appropriate support from a team of health professionals.

Diagnosis of dementia

A diagnosis of dementia will come from your geriatric physician or neurologist. The individual will have had the symptoms for at least 6 months and score poorly on cognitive tests such as the mini mental state examination (MMSE). Blood tests, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans will rule out alternative causes for cognitive difficulties and confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of dementia

Dementia can have a negative impact on the individual’s and the caregiver’s quality of life. Therefore it is important they are offered holistic care. Every individual is different and whilst some people in the early stages of dementia may be able to live at home, others will require constant supervision and assistance with activities of daily living. Treatment options for the person with dementia include medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, physiotherapy, pain management, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy. Some people may enjoy reminiscence therapy which is therapeutic reflection and discussion of life experiences using music and photographs.

Physiotherapy for dementia

Physiotherapy assessment can be provided by in clinic, in the home or within a 24 hour care facility. Often, it is helpful to have a friend or relative present at the assessment to provide a detailed account of the individuals past medical history, daily routine, problems and hobbies. Following a detailed neurological assessment, a list of the individual’s problems will be formulated along with realistic goals and an appropriate treatment plan. The treatment plan will be specific to the individual’s needs. However, a general treatment plan may involve:
  • Muscle strengthening exercises
  • Dynamic balance activities
  • Practice of functional tasks – getting washed and dressed, cleaning
  • Transfer practice – on/off chair, on/off floor, in/out the bath
  • Indoor/outdoor mobility practice
  • Stairs/slope practice
  • Pain relief
  • Fatigue management
  • Provision of mobility aids and equipment
Depending on the severity of the dementia, communication, understanding and memory may be a problem for the individual. This can make it difficult for them to engage in treatment, understand the purpose of therapy and remember to do exercises in their own time. If this is the case, our experienced clinicians utilise functional every day activities such as walking to the bathroom or polishing a table as therapeutic exercise which has purpose and meaning in order to promote participation whilst achieving specific goals. Catching a ball will increase upper limb strength and improve co-ordination whilst kicking a ball will work on dynamic balance as well as lower limb strength. Our physiotherapists are able to assess the need for a mobility aids and will teach the individual how to use sticks, zimmer frames or outdoor walkers when appropriate. Carer education is an important part of physiotherapy for dementia. Our experienced physiotherapists will provide physical demonstrations, verbal instruction and written handover to carers involved in the management of an individual with dementia to ensure holistic care 24 hours a day. We will show carers how to use equipment, how to roll or position someone in bed, how to transfer or walk with an individual safely. This is just one part of the holistic physiotherapy treatment provided by The wide range of benefits of physiotherapy includes:
  • Reduced risk of falls
  • Increased independence in functional tasks
  • Increased functional mobility
  • Increased safety in the home environment
  • Increased muscle strength and balance
  • Increased confidence and quality of life
  • Increased social skills
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced fatigue


At we understand that the symptoms of dementia can significantly impact on both the individuals and the carer’s quality of life. Our specialist clinicians have valuable experience with those with dementia and are able to offer holistic caring treatment based on the individuals needs to grant the highest possible quality of life.
  • Treatment at any stage of dementia
  • Treatment at home or in residential care home
  • Experienced specialised physiotherapists
  • Caring, understanding staff
  • Access to hydrotherapy
  • Access to occupational therapy
  • Access to speech and language therapy
At we are able to substantially improve an individual’s physical ability and reduce impairments when cognition has been affected by dementia. If you would like to book an appointment or talk to an experienced physiotherapist about dementia, please contact us now on 0330 088 7800. You can also book an appointment with us online today.

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