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Managing Alzheimer’s – The Benefits of Diversion Therapy

Onray Fernando, National Podiatry Manager
  • Aged Care Professionals
  • Podiatry Practice

Alzheimer’s is a life-changing disease that progressively impacts cognition, behaviour and motor functioning. With Alzheimer’s being widely prevalent in aged care, this means that there is often a degree of difficulty added in caring for and building relationships with affected residents.

With caring for people at the core of what we do at Dimple, this can present unique challenges when attending a facility. Residents with Alzheimer’s have a greater vulnerability with both a decreased physical capacity for self-care, forgetfulness about foot injury and often impaired communication about any issues they may be experiencing. This makes being able to carry out our regular, expert care even more important to their health and quality of life.

Diversion therapy is widely utilised in Alzheimer’s to engage residents, promote cognitive control and thereby minimise disruptive behaviour. The benefits of employing diversion during podiatric care are numerous and include:

  • Reducing agitation, anxiety and restlessness, therefore promoting a safer environment for both Podiatrist and resident.
  • Helping residents get the foot care they need who are impacted by cognitive decline and may have difficulty receiving palliative care
  • Giving back the best chance for residents to be able to effectively communicate about their foot care needs and build relationships with you

Diversion techniques can be easily implemented in your facility when caring for residents with Alzheimer’s. These can be as simple as:

Asking questions

By giving residents questions to answer on areas they are familiar with, it helps keep them engaged and focused. If you know they like old cars, ask them about the cars they’ve owned. If they’ve just had lunch, ask them about their favourite foods. If you find them getting distracted, move on to another topic – like their favourite pet. You’ll also get to know them in the process and what to talk about in the future!

playing music where permitted

There is sound clinical evidence behind the ability of music to relax, focus and engage in Alzheimer’s and dementia. Where possible and with permission, try playing calming music in the treatment room that they can focus on.

Keeping them focused on other objects or activities

Just like music, other non-disruptive activities or objects can serve as great points of focus. This may be looking through a book or engaging with an object like a toy they enjoy. Facility staff are likely to already be aware of items that help engage with certain residents so don’t hesitate to check.

Controlling the environment where possible

Check your treatment room. Is it cluttered, over-stimulating or noisy? If so, it may encourage residents to become restless or agitated and impair your ability to engage with them and treat them. Talk to your facility to see if you can help this be better controlled or if there is an alternate treatment room – this may be a help to nursing staff and other aged care professionals too!

Don’t forget to stay relaxed, make good eye contact, smile and know you are making a positive impact to the lives and health of these residents!

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