Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Dementia May Never Improve, but Many Patients Still Can Learn

DementiaDr. Linda Clare, a clinical psychologist at the University of Exeter, directed a recent trial of cognitive rehabilitation in England and Wales. She has been studying cognitive rehabilitation and it evolved out of methods used for patients with brain injuries. The trial found that this therapy can help patients with dementia learn and preserve everyday tasks that they are struggling with.

Dr. Clare emphasizes that the therapy cannot reverse dementia and patients with not score higher on mental ability tests. But it can improve their capacity to perform the activities that they have decided will help them manage themselves. Those improvements persist over months, perhaps up to a year, even as participants’ cognition declines in other ways.

As pharmaceutical methods have failed, cognitive rehabilitation may be the future for many patients struggling with the illness. A smaller trial of cognitive rehab by Belgian researchers found that patients with early Alzheimer’s disease remained better able to do their chosen activities after a year. In the United States, Dr. Laura Gitlin, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University, has developed something called the Tailored Activity Program (T.A.P.). It is a similar therapy with the goal of reducing the troubling behaviors that can accompany dementia, such as repeated questions, wandering, rejecting assistance, verbal or physical aggression. A pilot study found that with T.A.P., the frequency of such behaviors decreased compared to a control group

See Paula Span, Dementia May Never Improve, but Many Patients Still Can Learn, New York Times, January 4, 2019.

Special thanks to Lewis Saret (Attorney, Washington, D.C.) for bringing this article to my attention.


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