Who treats dementia symptoms?

Uncategorized Mar 04, 2021

Welcome back Careblazer. In last week’s post I talked about the top docs that are usually involved in diagnosing dementia. The PCP, neurologist, and neuropsychologist. In today’s video I want to share with you my top 5 most helpful professions when it comes to treating dementia and it’s symptoms. My guess is that your loved one may be struggling with something that one of these 5 types of providers can help with. 


Let’s start first with speech pathology. 

A Speech Pathologist can be extremely helpful not only with swallowing issues that can happen in dementia, but also in the assessment of language abilities and in cognitive rehabilitation- meaning helping the person learn new ways of remembering information and communicating information. For example, in dementia there may be times when your loved one is having a hard time communicating with you. Maybe you can’t understand what they are saying because their words are mumbled or because the words they are using don’t make sense or because they are using the completely wrong word to describe what they want. It may even be that you can understand your loved one but they don’t seem to be understanding you. You may ask them to do something and they do something completely different or not do anything at all. Speech pathology can help identify what the cause is of their language problems and best of all, come up with ways you can work around it to improve communication. I’ve worked with many cases where someone with vascular dementia who has suffered a stroke started having language difficulties to the point that communication was really frustrating for the person with dementia and the caregiver.  A speech pathologist can help discover the true language difficulty; they can come up with amazing things like a book with pictures so they can point to what they need if their speech is impaired as one simple example. I think the benefits of speech therapy can often be overlooked.


Occupational Therapist/Physical Therapist. This is where your loved one can receive help with functional and physical things. Things  like what kind of equipment might help. For example, if your loved one has tremors in thier hands when they eat and most of the food flys off the spoon when they eat, an occupational therapist can determine that a weighted utensil can help make eating easier and more enjoyable. A physical therapist can help with exercises that are safe and help with strength so your loved one can maintain as much strength as possible. Which is really important for them to maintain basic functions of being able to walk, go to the bathroom on their own, dress themselves and so on. Occupational therapy can also help determine and give input on driving safety and living at home safely alone by assessing their range of motion in turning the head. Their reaction time. Whether or not they know how to work a microwave or call for emergency help. So if you feel like your loved one’s daily physical functioning is impaired and can use some help, consulting with an OT and/or PT can be helpful. 


Nutritionist/Dietician.- By help with diet, I mean help with nutrition. It’s common for people with dementia to start losing weight and muscle mass. A nutritionist or dietician can help choose helpful nutritious foods while considering health conditions. For example, it’s always best if your loved one can get regular, whole foods, but some people might also benefit from a supplement like a shake and there are things to consider in term of what a good shake is. For certain health conditions, like diabetes, the nutritionist can recommend the diet and foods and supplements best for that. 

Psychologist/Psychiatrist. Other types of psychologists and psychiatrists may also diagnose dementia, but I’d like to include them here as an important part of the treatment plan. Psychologists and psychiatrists can help the person with dementia with depression, anxiety, sleep, and even overall adjustment to the loss of functioning and independence. A psychologist and psychiatrist can also be helpful for the caregivers as they adjust to becoming a caregiver and find themselves wanting additional support or information and even process the grief that comes along with watching their loved one decline with dementia. SO if you have a loved one with dementia who has a lot of mood or behavioral problems a psychologist would be a great place for the person with dementia if they are more in the mild stages and can be helpful to the caregiver at any stage. A psychiatrist may be better for the person with later stage dementia as they will focus more on the medication rather than any talk therapy or behavioral approaches. 

Social worker- One of my favorite and most helpful providers. Help with finding community resources, counseling, various programs, help with applications, etc. Really so many practical ways to help. 


Now, you’ll want to find a provider that specializes in working with older adults, especially older adults with dementia as not all providers, in fact most providers are not trained to work with older adults with dementia. It requires extra training. For example, not all psychologist are trained to work with dementia, but a geropsychologist is. So you’ll want to keep the background and expertise of the person in mind.


Now, your loved one will still continue with the PCP as we discussed last week. And if your loved one was referred to a neurologist and/or a neuropsychologist, they will likely follow with them every now and then too. For a neuropsychologist, it’s often yearly until the neuropsychologist determines it’s no longer necessary or adding additional value. For the neurologist, it really depends on the specialized treatment plan. 


If you aren’t sure how to get to these providers, you can talk with your PCP about recommendations or a referral if your insurance requires that.  


Okay, I hope this helped give you some information on other types of helpful providers involved in dementia care. There are many more such as pharmacists, but I just wanted to give you an overview of some of the most common.  I’d love to know what types of providers that have been helpful in your dementia caregiving journey. Let me know in a comment below. 



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