Occupational Therapists’ Clinical Reasoning During Cognitive Assessment of Dementia Clients

Ardith Louise Richter

Purpose: To understand occupational therapists’ clinical reasoning processes when choosing functional cognitive assessments for seniors with dementia.

Methods: A qualitative methodology was used to gather data from four occupational therapists working in acute or community practice. Data comprised a 45 minute telephone interview with each participant about their thinking processes when choosing cognitive assessments.

Findings: Cognitive assessments that assess function in daily tasks provide more complete information to assist in client care, and are preferred by therapists over paper and pencil screens. Barriers to using functional assessments include time limitations, a penchant for screens by referring professionals, therapist training, and client factors.

Conclusion: Collaboration between employers and therapists is recommended to increase the use of functional cognitive assessments to improve client care. Management support of functional cognitive assessments and protected time for ongoing therapist education are recommended. Research study groups, communities of practice, and reflection are strategies to enhance therapists’ knowledge about cognitive assessments.