Alzheimer’s is a disease that keeps on taking. It has been reported that Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the Supreme Court, is in the beginning stages of dementia, possibly Alzheimer’s disease. This is a devastating diagnosis for anyone to hear.  Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that targets brain cells.  Dementia is progressive as the disease attacks more and more brain cells. Memory is affected first and progressively strikes more body systems and may ultimately end with death.   As I heard this on the news, I was struck with sadness over this happening to such a brilliant legal mind.

Treatment Options: As a Speech Language Pathologist, it is important to remember all treatment options, however not all options work for each individual. A proper evaluation is necessary to develop a treatment plan.  This list isn’t exhaustive and is focused primarily on ideas involving skilled therapy.  The goal of cognitive-communication treatment is to maximize the individual’s quality of life and communication success. This means using whichever approach or combination of approaches meets the needs and values of that individual.

Cognitive Stimulation Tx (CST): A group-based activity (typically small) that focuses on actively stimulating and engaging individuals with dementia by using theme-based activities.

Memory-training programs: These focus on improving/re-training memory skills. Techniques include spaced retrieval, error-free learning, process memory stimulation, and other learning strategies.

Reality Orientation (RO): This is a technique designed to reduce confusion and improve quality of life by providing orienting information (e.g., time, place, or person) to reinforce understanding and awareness of the environment. Information is repeated at regular intervals throughout the day.

Simulated presence therapy (SIMPRES): This is a little unique in that it is an emotion-oriented approach aimed at reducing levels of anxiety and challenging behaviors. The strategy entails playing audio recordings of the voices of close relatives of the individual. SIMPRES has been used to improve well-being (e.g., decrease agitation and withdrawal behaviors) in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease who have adequate hearing and have retained communication skills (Bayles et al., 2006). In an upcoming edition, we will talk more about treatment options for Alzheimer’s dementia.

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