Vestibular Physical Therapy in Individuals with Cognitive Impairment: A Theoretical Framework

Brooke N. Klatt, Julie D. Ries, Pamela M. Dunlap, Susan L. Whitney, Yuri Agrawal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Falls are a major health care concern in individuals with Alzheimer disease (AD) and their caregivers. Vestibular impairment is a known risk factor for falls, and individuals with AD have been shown to have an increased prevalence of vestibular loss compared with age-matched controls. Vestibular physical therapy (VPT) is effective in improving balance and reducing fall risk in cognitively-intact persons with vestibular impairment. However, the effectiveness of VPT in improving balance and reducing falls in individuals with AD who have vestibular loss has never been explored. Summary of Key Points: In this article, we apply prevailing ideas about rehabilitation and motor learning in individuals with cognitive impairment (IwCI) to VPT. Recommendations for Clinical Practice: We propose a modification of current evidence-based VPT protocols for IwCI using the strength-based theoretical framework that emphasizes the motor learning abilities of IwCI. In addition, we highlight the importance of establishing an excellent rapport with IwCI, and present key strategies for optimizing the therapeutic relationship. In ongoing work, we are assessing the efficacy of this modified VPT protocol in IwCI to improve balance and reduce falls.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S14-S19
JournalJournal of Neurologic Physical Therapy
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • Alzheimer disease
  • cognitive impairment
  • dementia
  • vestibular rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Clinical Neurology


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