Older adults with dementia are 9 times as likely to require a stay in a skilled nursing facility as their cognitively intact counterparts.  Skilled rehabilitation (including physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and nursing) is an integral part of an older adult’s return to the optimal functional level of independence following an injury or illness.  Patients with dementia pose unique challenges to rehabilitation professionals.  Severe deficits in attention, judgment, memory, communication, and language are common in individuals with dementia.  It is commonly thought that patients with dementia cannot benefit from rehabilitation services because of behaviors, lack of communication, or difficulties in learning.  The current literature demonstrates that this is not case, and patients with dementia benefit as much from rehabilitation as individuals without dementia.  But it is up to us as the rehabilitation professionals to understand how to exploit the strengths and abilities of these individuals to help meet our goals.
The current course will provide you with a better understanding of cognitive aging as well as discuss which parts of cognition are the strongest throughout the progression of dementia.  Barriers to treatment will be discussed along with best practice and evidence-based approaches to overcome these challenges to improve functional outcomes for these patients.  Understanding the use of a strength-based approach will be emphasized to help you and your staff better treat this growing group of challenging patients.

Level of Instruction:  Introduction

Course Objectives

  • Identify treatment goals for each stage
  • Identify differences between strength-based approach and traditional medical model
  • Identify remaining strengths and domains requiring compensation in patients with dementia
  • Identify current evidenced-based interventions and best practices in literature

Course Agenda

  • Dementia Overview a) Signs & symptoms b) Differentiation of different types of dementia
  • Progression of Dementia a) Functional Staging for Rehabilitative Purposes b) Pharmacological Treatments
  • Strength-based Approach to Rehabilitation a) Strength-based vs. medical model b) Remaining strengths in dementia c) Constructs requiring compensation in dementia d) Components of strength-based approach
  • Treatment Strategies to Facilitate Successful Outcomes a) Effective communication strategies b) Current evidence-based interventions and best practices for individuals with dementia


  • Nicole Dawson, PT, PhD, GCS

Nicole Dawson, PT, PhD, GCS is an Assistant Professor in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at the University of Central Florida.  She is a Board Certified Geriatric Physical Therapist with over 13 years of clinical experience along with a PhD in Adult Development & Aging Psychology from Cleveland State University.  Her current area of research includes developing non-pharmacological interventions to improve functional and psychosocial outcomes in patients with dementia, identifying predictors of falls in older adults with cognitive impairment, as well as gaining a better understanding of the illness experience of individuals with dementia.  Dr. Dawson has been published in peer-reviewed journals including The Gerontologist and has presented at numerous local and national conferences on the subject.  She is passionate about the bettering the treatment and care of these patients and is dedicated to assisting students and clinicians in gaining skills and knowledge to better help these patients maximize their potential.


Contact Hours: 1.5

Price: $49


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