Why Your Parent with Dementia Needs to See a Physiotherapist

When your parent is diagnosed with dementia, you may find yourself visiting a number of doctors - from your family GP to specialist neurologists. However, these aren't the only health care practitioners who can help. One important professional to see is your physiotherapist. Here are 3 ways a physio can dramatically improve your parent's well-being.

Identifying & Treating Pain 

Pain can be a big problem for people suffering from dementia. As their condition progresses, their ability to communicate declines. Unlike a healthy adult who can report pain when they feel it, a parent with dementia may not do so. They may not be able to understand how to explain what they feel, and they may forget that they've experienced pain. A physiotherapist will be able to identify whether your parent is in pain and provide ways of treating this discomfort. From arthritis to back pain, physiotherapy can help alleviate a number of elements using treatments like massage and TENS (transcutaneous electrical stimulation).

Reducing Risk of Falls

Statistics show that in 2011-2012, almost 100,000 Australians aged over 65 were hospitalised after a fall. For people with dementia, the risk of falling is even greater. The thought of your parent falling can be very scary, but there are ways to reduce this risk. The key to stable mobility is a high level of strength and balance. A physiotherapist can help your ageing parent improve their bodily health through a wide range of assessments and exercises, keeping them on their feet. To give you peace of mind, a physio will also be able to show you how to help prevent falls by assisting with regular activity and removing hazards from the home.

Boosting Happiness

One of the hardest parents of having a parent with dementia is seeing them unhappy. Studies show that older adults report higher levels of happiness than younger adults, so it's upsetting to see your loved one miss out on these golden years. While dementia does bring a sufferer's mood down, there are ways to bring it back up again. Outside of communication and memory-based activities, exercise is proven to make people happier. Exercise releases endorphins for short-term gain, but it also has long-term positive effects on mood - improved sleep, more confidence and self-esteem, and even better memory. Of course, too much exercise can be harmful to ageing people, especially those with other health problems like high blood pressure and arthritis. This is where a physiotherapist comes in. Physiotherapists will be able to assess your parent's physical condition and capabilities, and help them to exercise in a way that doesn't make things worse. Hydrotherapy, in particular, is a great exercise for dementia sufferers -- it improves balance and provides calming effects.