Dementia Patients Benefit from Professional Massage
While not a specific disease, dementia is a more generic term that refers to a severe decline in mental ability. This decline will eventually interfere with the daily life of the patient. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s Disease as it accounts for 60% or more of dementia patients. The cognitive symptoms of dementia are not part of the normal process of aging.
The Characteristics of Dementia
Each person suffering from dementia will have their own unique set of symptoms, but the following characteristics are the most common symptoms seen in patients. However, to be diagnosed with the disease, at least two of the core mental functions must be impaired to a significant degree.
The most common symptoms and characteristics include:
● Memory changes
● Difficulties with communication and language
● An inability to focus or pay attention
● Loss of reasoning or judgment
● Changes in visual perception and hallucinations
● Signs of aggression, agitation, hostility, anxiety, and restlessness
● Withdrawal and disinterest in friends, family, and hobbies
● Disturbances in sleep patterns and/or insomnia
Initially, a person dealing with dementia may show smaller symptoms like a decline in short-term memory. He or she may start forgetting where things like a purse or wallet have been left. They may forget to pay bills or attend appointments, and they may forget how to prepare meals. Getting lost while traveling in once familiar places is also a sign of the cognitive decline.
As the disease progresses, the patient may start to see an inability to function at work, in social relationships, and in all the day-to-day areas of his or her life. It can be a scary and isolating time for the patient, and it can also be a difficult thing for loved ones to watch happening.
The Causes of Dementia
Ultimately, dementia is the result of damage to the cells in the brain which interferes with the cells’ ability to communicate. This loss of communication affects thinking, behavior, and emotions. However, since the brain has several distinct regions that are all responsible for different processes, damage in one area may leave other parts functioning normally.
Genetics seems to play a significant role in determining those that are susceptible to the disease process. However, other conditions can be contributing factors as well. Depression, certain medications, excessive use of alcohol, thyroid issues, and particular vitamin deficiencies have been known to affect the brain’s cognitive functions.
Massage and Alzheimer’s Patients
Massage has many health benefits that can be good for the general population including an increase in circulation and joint function. It also helps decrease muscle spasms, pain, and inflammation. It has additional benefits for those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.
The deteriorating brain function that dementia patients undergo can be very frightening and isolating, and it can be extremely beneficial for the patient to have a caring massage therapist focusing their attention on them. It can go a long way towards helping to ease the fear of losing touch with society that is often felt by those with this devastating disease.
Massage therapy provides dementia patients with attention that is non-judgmental and unconditional. Plus, it gives them a sensory experience with tactile stimulation. There is also a degree of companionship and social interaction that may be sorely lacking in the patient’s life. Also, there is a feeling of not only acknowledgment but also acceptance.
A caring and thoughtful massage therapist can bring a sense of well-being while easing the effects of isolation, loneliness, and even boredom.
Offering Alzheimer’s Massage Therapy
As you can see, there is a great benefit to the senior community when a massage therapist chooses to add this service to their practice. It does come with a few differences, however. People with dementia will need to be meet at their place of residence because traveling may be impossible, frightening, or simply too difficult. The therapist will also need to be very mindful of verbal and nonverbal cues. Yet, it can be nearly as rewarding for the massage therapist as it is for the client.