“Is medicine going to the dogs?” According to the Mayo Clinic article, “Pet therapy: Man’s best friend as healer,” interaction with pets is proving useful in helping people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia by providing them with a sense of comfort and enjoyment and by reducing their stress and agitation. Other “holistic” therapies, including the use of music and art, have also been found to be beneficial to loved ones with dementia. As noted in the Alzheimer’s Association article, “Music, Art and Alzheimer’s,” music and art can enrich the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease and allow for self-expression and engagement, even after dementia has progressed.
Holistic Therapies for Engaging and Stimulating Your Loved One with Dementia
Experts in the field say that therapies that incorporate art, music, pets, reminiscing and other pleasurable activities can enhance both your loved one’s physical and emotional well-being. For reasons that are not completely clear, such therapies seem to create a bridge or portal that enables loved ones to reconnect with the outside world. These activities appear to “unlock” the individual’s mind and allow self-expression and social engagement that had seemingly been lost during the progression of the disease.
- Art – Art therapy proponents believe that art activities enhance the health and wellbeing of loved ones with dementia in a variety of highly beneficial ways. Art therapy has been shown to improve mood, decrease agitation and outbursts, increase the ability for self-expression and communication, and provide an important sense of accomplishment and purpose.
- Music – Researchindicates that music is a useful therapy that can increase cognitive function in those with dementia. Your loved one’s favorite music can provide a pleasant way for them to connect with the outside world, even after verbal communication has become a challenge. Music can reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s, a person may be able sing lyrics to a song from their youth.
- Pets – Pets have been found to have a soothing effect on loved ones with dementia by create feelings of peace and calm while also helping to recreate pleasant memories of their own beloved pets. Dogs and other animals have a unique way of connecting with humans that offers a special sense of comfort, relaxation and well-being. Says Karin Winegar, author of “Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform,” “The human-animal bond bypasses the intellect and goes straight to the heart and emotions and nurtures us in ways that nothing else can.”
- “Reminiscence Therapy” – Reminiscing about past events, old friends and fond memories is another important way to keep your loved one pleasantly engaged. Try listening to music from your loved one’s younger days, go through old photo albums together and discuss pleasant memories of happy days gone by.Says Christine Kennard, author of “Reminiscence Therapy and Activities for People with Dementia,” “For people with Alzheimer’s disease, encouraging the act of reminiscence can be highly beneficial to their inner self and their interpersonal skills. It is about giving the person with Alzheimer’s a sense of value, importance, belonging, power and peace.”
Exercise: For Both of You – Regular exerciseis good for general health and also provides a way for caregivers and their loved ones toreduce their physical and emotional stress while improving strength and balance. Additionally, recent university research has shown that exercise can reduce and delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Have Fun Together – Continue to do the things your loved one most enjoys for as long as he/she is able. Take a walk together or spend some time in the garden. Familiar activities are usually pleasurable to someone with Alzheimer’s.
Create a Positive Living Environment
According to Elayne Forgie, author of “Sensory Stimulation for People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia,” a simple yet stimulating environment of pleasant sights, smells, and sounds will enhance your loved one’s living environment. Paintings and familiar pictures on the wall, a wind chime outside the window, a bouquet of flowers for its color and fragrance, and relaxing music on the radio can help to decrease your loved one’s agitation and restlessness, as well as improve their sleep.
Help Is Available for Caregivers
Today a variety of resources is available to assist caregivers who are caring for their loved one at home. These include Alzheimer’s Association services, support groups, self-help guides, respite care services, in-home support, community-based services and educational programs. Progressiveresidential Memory care providers, such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, offer a variety of educational programs, support, and special events designed to help family caregivers.
For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading, residential Memory Care Assisted Living Communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “New Directions”SM program in Mishawaka, IN, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “New Directions” SM provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.
For more information and helpful resources about Holistic Treatments for Memory Care, contact us today!