Therapy for Inmates with Dementia

While few studies specifically describe the role of occupational therapy for inmates with dementia, findings from other occupational therapy literature may apply to some extent. The primary role of occupational therapy is to enable engagement in life, through meaningful occupation, to support health and well-being (Polatajko et al 2007). Enabling occupation involves a range of areas, including collaborating with the person to determine meaningful occupation, evaluating and modifying the person’s environment and educating care providers on how to support the person’s occupations (O’Sullivan 2011). Occupational therapy’s holistic approach makes it well suited to addressing these areas, while still working within the prison context.
Many research studies describe a range of activities that have been found to be beneficial for people with dementia. Engaging in physical activity, such as walking, has a positive impact on people’s mood, quality of sleep and functional abilities, which can reduce the incidence of disruptive behaviour (Eggermont & Scherder 2006). Cognitive stimulation therapies, which include reality orientation and reminiscence therapy, are structured activities that facilitate memory or encourage discussion of past experiences, with the purpose of strengthening cognitive function (Yuill & Hollis 2011). Leisure activities, which may involve music, art or gardening, have the potential to facilitate socialising, assist people with managing time and allow people to feel a sense of accomplishment (O’Sullivan & Hocking 2006). Simply because opportunities for activities exist, however, does not mean people will benefit from them. The core belief of occupational therapy is that occupations must be meaningful, which relates strongly to the person’s self-identity, and must therefore be tailored to suit that person (Phinney et al 2007).
Occupational therapy also places importance on a person’s environment, which should support the person in his/her...