Executive capacity

Executive capacity (the capacity to perform actions) is based on a series of elements: thinking out, planning and performing an action. We do this continually without even thinking about it. In dementia, the executive capacity is affected at an early stage. The simplest of activities can become complicated and seem impossible to perform. This leads to inactivity, with the patient often just left sitting passively.

Both the family and nursing staff should be aware of where this passivity originates. This means they avoid demanding too much of activities. With support from those around them, patients can manage a wide range of activities – until quite late in the progression of the disease – if there is no time pressure and they can take “one step at a time”.

Good advice for handling impaired executive capacity:

    • When performing an activity, tell the dementia patient what to do one instruction or step at a time. 
    • Start the activity or movement yourself, so that the person with dementia can imitate you.

Impaired executive capacity can occur, for example, with Alzheimer’s, Lewy body, vascular and fronto-temporal dementia. To find out more about the diseases, click here.

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