Saturday, February 19, 2011


Eight Alternative Therapies:

Pet Therapy:
As many pet owners will attest, just being around an animal can have a soothing effect. This is the idea behind pet therapy for people with dementias such as Alzheimer's disease, who are at particular risk for anxiety and depression. In this kind of therapy, the pet's human companion introduces the animal -- whether it's a dog, cat, guinea pig, or other domestic pet -- to the person with Alzheimer's and helps the interaction go smoothly and safely.

Spiritual Activities:
Whether spiritual activities include prayer, religious services, or visits with someone who offers faith-based counsel, they have a therapeutic effect on many people with Alzheimer's disease. Spirituality and faith offer stress relief, hope, and reassurance. Some studies have found that people with probable Alzheimer's who have higher levels of religiosity show slower rates of mental decline.

Music Therapy:
If you've ever found yourself singing a pop song you haven't heard since high school -- and knowing the lyrics -- you have some idea of the power of musical memory. Someone with Alzheimer's might not remember breakfast, yet the lyrics of old favorites from 50 or 60 years ago may be at the tip of her tongue.

Art Therapy:
Both viewing and creating works of art can be therapeutic. Walking through a museum or gallery is a great way to relax a person with Alzheimer's disease while providing some exercise. Talking about certain pieces with a companion or a group on a special tour gives her a chance to converse about something in the moment without worrying about failing to remember names or facts. (And art interpretation, after all, is up to the individual, so there's also a freedom of expression.) This, in turn, can be a huge mood booster and way to increase self-esteem.

Storytelling is another therapy that taps into creativity. A caregiver or other companion presents the patient with a picture or series of pictures and invites her to construct a corresponding storyline. As in art therapy, communicating about an image doesn't require remembering anything, which can be an intimidating and uncomfortable aspect of other conversations. Storytelling exercises creativity, gives emotional release, and provides caregivers with interesting insights into the life and mind of the person with Alzheimer's.

Reminiscence Therapy:
Different from storytelling, which doesn't specifically involve memories, reminiscence therapy invites a person with Alzheimer's to exercise her long-term memory by encouraging her to share positive recollections from younger days. Especially in the earlier stages of the disease, she may still remember with astonishing clarity events and people from childhood and young adulthood. Old photo albums, mementos, and music are common tools used to generate this type of conversation.

Massage Therapy:
Perhaps one of the most unexpected therapies for someone with Alzheimer's disease is massage therapy. In all people, the healing power of touch is well documented. It can trigger the relaxation response, lower blood pressure, and reduce the pain of chronic diseases. Few studies have been done on massage for Alzheimer's patients, but so far it's been found to reduce episodes of wandering and other agitated behaviors associated with anxiety. Massage can also help people with the disease sleep better, ease muscle pain and tightness, and ward off depression.

The use of essential oils from flowers and other plants to treat physical and mental disorders has a long history dating back thousands of years. Certain scents appear to work directly on connections in the brain to create associated responses. Scented oils can be applied directly to the skin (in diluted form) during massage, burned to release their scent into the air, or placed in bathwater. Some nursing facilities use aromatherapy to calm residents. This therapy hasn't been well studied with Alzheimer's, and as the disease progresses the sense of smell is often impaired, so it's unclear whether people with advanced Alzheimer's can benefit from it.

Check out this website for more information:

Marie Fostino
Alzheimer's A Caretakers Journal
Seaboard Press An Imprint of James A Rock Pub., Co.

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