November is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and Family Caregiver Awareness Month. The field of occupational therapy is distinctly able to support individuals with dementia, their families and caregivers – by taking into account the environment and how it impacts the daily routines of individuals. Occupational therapy promotes participation in everyday life.

Thomas Jefferson University Associate Professor Catherine Verrier Piersol, PhD, OTR/L, directs a program established to serve this growing population. Jefferson Elder Care offers a variety of programs for individuals with dementia, their caregivers and health care providers.

Dr. Piersol is the author of A Caregiver’s Guide to Dementia: Using Activities and Other Strategies to Prevent, Reduce and Manage Behavioral Symptoms, published by Camino Books, Inc.

Dr. Piersol is available to speak about dementia and proven, practical strategies to help caregivers manage day-to-day life and challenging behaviors.

“One example of a challenging behavior is wandering. People with dementia may wander in the home or try to go outside and leave the home, which of course is very unsafe. The occupational therapist would determine the possible triggers with the caregiver and together brainstorm strategies for the caregiver to try. It may be that the person with dementia is bored with nothing to do, is searching for someone or something, or does not know where he or she is and is fearful and wants to leave. Strategies could include:1. Establishing a daily routine that includes more activities during the day to engage the person so he/she stays in bed at night2. Providing opportunities for safe wondering in the home. If there is circular path that the person can walk over and over again, perhaps looking at photos on the wall along the way. 3. Using an alarm system so the caregiver is alerted when the person leaves the home4. Disguising the door or placing a “STOP” sign on the door.”

To speak with Dr. Catherine Verrier Piersol, contact Gail Benner, Public Affairs Representative at gail.benner@jefferson.edu.