By Emily Byl
For Senior Voice 

Webinar focuses on occupational therapy and dementia, Feb. 7


February 1, 2022 | View PDF

A diagnosis of dementia is one of the most difficult hardships a patient and their loved ones can face. The months and years after diagnosis are often filled with trying to learn more about the disease, wondering what the future holds, becoming a caregiver with no formal training, and experiencing loss. These challenges can be overwhelming for anyone to overcome.

A support system is crucial to managing the new territory a dementia diagnosis brings, and one important member of that team is an occupational therapist. Occupational therapy is the practice of addressing the physical, mental and emotional barriers to fully participating in day-to-day activities, whether that is getting dressed, eating or bathing, or enjoying leisure activities such as baking or painting.

Join Emily Byl, occupational therapist and owner of Well Haven Occupational Therapy, and the Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska for an informative webinar on Monday, Feb. 7, from noon to 1:30 p.m. The webinar, as part of the ARA’s Caregiving 101 series, will detail how occupational therapists maintain or improve independence in patients with dementia and support their caregivers.

Initial evaluation

The occupational therapy process includes a holistic evaluation, followed by treatment tailored to a patient’s needs. The therapist will evaluate the patient’s ability to complete activities, keeping in mind their physical and cognitive skills, the environment they are completed in, the support system involved, and any comorbidities that may also be a factor, such as stroke or peripheral neuropathy.

After the evaluation, the therapist, patient and caregiver will develop individualized goals that allow the patient to resume or pursue valued occupations, or daily activities. Goals are always based on functioning and may look like getting dressed with minimal help, completing a morning grooming routine, or getting in and out of the shower independently.

Focused treatment

During treatment, occupational therapists generally focus their treatment in three major areas: addressing ways to complete occupations; environmental-based interventions; and caregiver strategies. Therapists use everyday activities to improve or maintain abilities and the focus is always on day-to-day functioning. For example, an occupational therapist may change the demands of the task to promote independence, such as switching a button-down shirt that requires good upper body range of motion, visual perceptual skills, multiple steps and buttoning, to a long sleeve t-shirt with simple, step-by-step instructions to take on and off.

There are many ways occupational therapists can adjust a person with dementia’s environment to help them safely complete their daily tasks, engage with others, and reduce aggression, anxiety and more. Occupational therapists also provide home safety assessments and make recommendations to ensure safety during activities of daily living, such as grab bar placement near the toilet, seating for bathtubs or showers, and bed rails or more extensive renovations to improve a home’s livability.

Occupational therapists help caregivers walk through their day-to-day and give them the education and skills needed to provide care. Skills training may look like learning communication strategies while interacting with the person with dementia, setting up the environment for success, and understanding the changes the person is experiencing and how that impacts behavior and abilities.

Further information

To learn more about occupational therapy for dementia care, register for the Caregiving 101 Webinar at, and visit In addition to hosting educational and practical webinars, the Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska provides trainings, consultation, support groups and assistance in locating resources and supports for patients with dementia and their loved ones.

Emily Byl is an Occupational Therapist practicing in Anchorage.


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