Friday, April 25, 2008

Massage, Aromatherapy and Alzheimer's Disease

Massage and aromatherapy have known benefits. Most people, especially family caregivers, may not be aware that aromatherapy, massage, therapeutic touch, light and pet therapy may help subdue aggressive behaviors, especially those associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Anyone who has cared for a family member with dementia is well aware of the challenges. Oftentime, cognitive decline results in the need to place a family member within an institution, as management problems with behaviors escalate. Behavioral problems are very distressing when you’re caring for a loved one.

Using non medical approaches to help someone remain at home has many advantages. There are no side effects, and alternative approaches to care often address a more specific patient need, such as sensory deprivation.

Therapeutic touch and aromatherapy may provide a solution. Hand massage can be very calming. Music and pet therapy may cure boredom that can lead to periods of agitation and aggression.

The presence of a therapy dog for 30 minutes on two occasions during sundown hours reduced the number of agitated behaviors in 28 older adults with dementia in another study.

Multisensory stimulation provokes the senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell - through the use of effects such as meditative music, lighting, tactile surfaces, and aroma. Examples include moving shapes beamed around the room, bubble tubes, fiber-optic sprays, music, and aromatherapy oil diffusers. Studies have shown that these interventions can provide calm, though the effects were not long lasting, and took four weeks to see the effects.

Hand massage has also been studied, and showed that physical aggression can be calmed with the use of slow stroke hand massage. In the study, verbal aggression was not decreased, but physical signs of agitation responded well to hand massage.

Aromatherapy, using lavender oil, was placed in a resident facility, and diffused for a two hour period. There was a sixty percent “modest” improvement in agitated behavior among the residents when compared to placebo(water).

The use of Melissa oil showed a 60% decrease in agitation when it was applied to the face and arms of a group of severely demented, agitated patients. Melissa oil was compared with sunflower oil, and found to be more effective.

These studies are encouraging, and provide insight on how to help manage a loved one when trying to care for them in the home or in a healthcare setting. No one thing will work for each individual. Perhaps combinations of therapies are worth exploring.

You can search for Melissa oil online. It is expensive, but is said to decrease respirations, and slow heart rate. It has a distinctive lemon scent. Aromatherapy diffusers, calming music, as well as natural lighting may also be beneficial. You can purchase pure lavender oil from any natural health store and there are many online merchants from which to choose.

Source: Geriatrics Aging. 2005; 8(4):26-30. ©2005 1453987 Ontario, Ltd. ◦