A new study suggests that occupational therapy isn’t likely to improve
everyday functioning or reduce functional decline among individuals with
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), although it can help reduce perceived burdens on
The results were disappointing, said lead author Christopher Callahan,
MD, professor and director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research.
“We anticipated that OT would enable families to keep patients more engaged
physically and socially while strengthening muscles and minds. But we weren’t
able to demonstrate this.”
While they weren’t able to document a change in caregiver stress, Callahan
notes that caregivers perceived that OT helped quality of life for them and
their loved ones. “It’s important to remember that both study groups were
getting collaborative care, and we know that this improves quality of life and
reduces caregiver stress,” he says.
There is still a role for OT in individuals with AD, Callahan says. “If
a provider is thinking about ordering OT for someone with Alzheimer’s, this
study actually doesn’t encourage or discourage them.” Instead, he suggests that
providers consider the value of OT on a case-by-case basis. “It makes perfect sense to use OT to enhance
quality of life,” he says.
Callahan says that these results show the need for further study in
this area. “There continues to be a lot of disappointing results in research
about treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, and sometimes providers think that
there isn’t anything to offer. But we are learning more all the time.” He adds,
“Learning what doesn’t work takes us closer to finding out what does.”