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Dementia (Improving Quality of Life in Individuals with Dementia: The Role of Nonpharmacologic Approaches in Rehabilitation)

Laura N. Gitlin, Ph.D.
Tracey Vause Earland, MS, OTR/L

Dementia is a neurodegenerative, progressively deteriorating and terminal clinical syndrome characterized by a loss or decline in memory and other cognitive abilities. Most recent scientific thinking is that dementia may be caused by various diseases and conditions affecting over 5 million Americans (Alzheimer's Association 2008) and 27.7 million worldwide (Wimo et al. 2006). It is projected that the number of Americans with dementia will exceed 7.7 million by the year 2030 and from 11 to 16 million by the year 2050 (Alzheimer's Association 2008). There is presently not a cure for dementia.

Although promising experimental treatments are currently undergoing animal and human testing, experts agree that a cure or specific treatment to slow or arrest disease progression will take many more years of research. Thus, developing, testing and implementing nonpharmacologic approaches in clinical settings to manage the disease and that support or enhance quality of life for individuals with dementia and their families, is a public health imperative both in the United States and worldwide.

The primary goal of rehabilitation is to enable people to achieve their optimal level of function.

The purpose of this chapter which was published in the international encyclopedia of rehabilitation is to advance the role of nonpharmacologic approaches in rehabilitation for the clinical management of dementia patients.

Read about nonpharmacologic approaches to dementia care.