Just over three quarters of a million Canadians are currently living with Alzheimer’s. More than likely you know someone who has the condition.
And you will also know the devastating effect that such a diagnosis brings, not only the sufferer, but their entire family.
What you may not be aware of is the potential benefit of human touch on patients with Alzheimer’s.
ALZHEIMER’S AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE BODY
Although most of the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s are to do with the memory, there are others besides.
The initial stages of Alzheimer’s begins with what seem like only slight dints in a person’s short term memory.
As it progresses, the symptoms deepen and the memory loss becomes more severe and can change the person’s mood and character.
Confusion and disorientation gets worse and eventually the patient may become distrustful of their own family and friends. This is one of the most distressing aspects of the condition.
In addition to the mental decline, there can also be a physical effect as well, which is less well known.
When someone is disoriented they may wander off and become lost. This in turn puts them at a risk physically of falling. People with Alzheimer’s are more likely to have a fall anyway, sometimes for reasons which are additional to their Alzheimer’s.
Problems with everyday tasks can also occur. This can mean the patient has trouble doing things such as eating, dressing, bathing and so on.
WHAT CAUSES ALZHEIMER’S
Alzheimer’s is caused when cells in the brain die and then the remaining cells cannot communicate with each other. The result is a loss in brain function and inability to process new information and remember things.
HOW DOES MASSAGE HELP WITH ALZHEIMER’S?
Although massage cannot help to undo the progress of Alzheimer’s, there is some evidence it might help improve quality of life.
It helps by aiding better orientation and lowering the levels of agitation which are so distressing to both the patient and their loved ones.
Some of the ways that the use of human touch therapies can help people with Alzheimer’s are;
- Touch therapy helps to lessen instances of heightened agitation. These are episodes of pacing, wandering and so forth.
- Slow stroke massage particularly can work well for easing the signs of agitation.
- Other touch based therapies like Reiki can help to lessen the effects of depression and anxiety that are associated with Alzheimer’s.
- Massage can also be incorporated in with other multisensory therapies such as art and music. All these approaches can help to stabilise the mood of the patient with Alzheimer’s.
- There may be some benefit from craniosacral therapy to people with Alzheimer’s. It may help with migraines and insomnia. When also used with a special diet and exercise there has been some claims that it can help to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s. However, this has not been proven.
- The use of the human touch is soothing to the patient and this in turn, helps improve their mood. The simple act of one on one touch and an individually tailored treatment can sometimes be all that is needed to see an improvement in a patient.
MASSAGE FOR ALZHEIMER’S: NOT JUST FOR THE PATIENT!
Massage therapy for patients suffering from any form of dementia can be of huge benefit to them. But it is not only the patient who may some advantage to the relaxation that the therapy can bring.
It may also help the caregivers of the individuals with Alzheimer’s.
Family members and spouses of the patient can themselves be suffering as a result of their loved one’s diagnosis. This can be a stressful time for family members struggling to cope with the physical care needs of the patient, but also the emotional issues that accompany it.
A massage should also be offered to caregivers and close family members of the patient, as this can help them to feel and function better.