Massage May Aid Dementia Patients
Massage and touch have been suggested as a drug-free alternative to other treatments offered to address a range of conditions associated with dementia such as anxiety, agitated behavior and depression, according to a Cochrane review of recent research which appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library.
Hand massage and touch, plus verbal encouragement, were suggested as methods for immediate or short-term reduction of agitation, one of the most challenging dementia symptoms. In two studies which included 110 nursing home residents with dementia, hand massage and gentle touching during conversation helped ease agitation and restore appetite. Some researchers and caregivers suggest massage might also benefit memory and counteract cognition decline in dementia patients.
“Even if touch therapy aims only to reintroduce something which has been lost in the professionalization and institutionalization of care, it may still turn out to be a relatively effective, inexpensive and low-risk intervention.” said lead author Viggo Hansen, of the Knowledge and Research Center for Alternative Medicine, part of Denmark’s Ministry of Health. The review appears to indicate that for dementia patients who have lost the ability to communicate verbally, physical touch might be the only way for them to connect with other individuals.
In one study, researchers used gentle touch and verbal encouragement to help residents with dementia stay calm at mealtime. Those residents who received contact ate more than patients who received verbal encouragement alone. In the second study, researchers found that hand massage helped soothe dementia patients’ agitation levels. Effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia include confusion, anxiety, agitation, wandering, and difficulty with eating and bathing and are especially challenging for caregivers. “Massage and touch may serve as alternatives or complements to other therapies for the management of behavioral, emotional and perhaps other conditions associated with dementia,” the authors concluded.
For information about Acupuncture & Massage College’s Massage Therapy diploma program featuring a Japanese Shiatsu specialization, contact Joe Calareso at (305) 595-9500.