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What is Habilitation Therapy?

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Habilitation Therapy is a recently developed care technique to help those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. It was created to teach caregivers about Alzheimer’s Disease and provide a comprehensive behavioral approach to dementia care. As a result, many memory care programs are beginning to practice Habilitation Therapy. But what is this new approach and how does it help people living with dementia?

The following is an excerpt of our free ebook on Habilitation Therapy:

The primary focus of Habilitation Therapy (HT) is for caregivers to maintain the skills and faculties of the person for whom they are caring. It was introduced as a care approach in 1996 and was developed by Paul Raia, Ph.D. and Joanne Koenig Coste of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association as a way to provide a comprehensive behavioral approach to dementia care. This approach works to maintain a positive emotional state throughout the day, giving those with dementia more independence, which helps boost morale and eases stress.

There are five areas of focus within HT that intend to illuminate a positive emotional response:

  1. Communication
  2. The Physical Environment
  3. The Approach to Personal Care
  4. Purposeful and Meaningful Engagement Throughout the Day
  5. Behavior as Communication

As the illness takes its course, it is important to help our loved ones maintain the skills they still possess. As the saying goes: “use it or lose it.” For example, as the illness progresses, you may find that your loved one has trouble dressing in a timely and adequate manner. HT recommends the caregiver lay out the clothing in the order people would dress. By placing undergarments on top of the pants, individuals will put on the clothing in the order they see it laid out. This allows your loved one to dress with minimal assistance and without feeling defeated or overwhelmed.

If your loved one can still physically dress, allow him or her to do so. While this task may take longer than it once had, performing it regularly will increase the longevity of the skill. If your loved one requires around-the-clock care at an advanced memory care facility, it is important to know how the staff is trained. Having a care team that is fully trained in HT ensures that everyone is working to ease the stress and boost the happiness of your loved one.

It is also important to note the ratio of caregivers to residents. For example, a ratio of one-to-four, meaning one caregiver to four residents, can be expected to provide the care your loved one deserves. A higher ratio than one-to-four can have negative implications for the implementation of HT.

In the most advanced facilities, all members of senior living staff including ancillary staff will be trained and familiar with HT. This would include chefs, receptionists, custodial staff, and drivers. A thoroughly trained staff ensures a seamless and safe transition of care for each resident.

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, Habilitation Therapy has been shown to help ease the life of those living with memory loss. It has even been accepted by the Alzheimer’s Association as the best standard of care and psychosocial intervention.

Download our free ebook on Habilitation Therapy and learn how more about how this approach is helping people cope with dementia.