The debilitating brain disease known as Alzheimer’s impairs memory, thinking, while triggering behavioral problems. Its symptoms include chronic disorientation, mood and behavior changes, along with deepening confusion about past events, and irrational suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers. Some Alzheimer’s patients also have difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking. In severe cases, aggressive behavior accompanies the other symptoms.
Massage and Dementia
Dementia is the loss of brain functioning that occurs in Alzheimer’s patients. In a study of geriatric patients suffering from dementia, a research team at Hamamatsu University’s School of Medicine provided tactile massage therapy treatments to patients 30 times, for 20 minutes each, over a six-week period. The researchers wanted to identify any changes that massage therapy would have on the physical and mental functioning of the patients. At the end of the study, the researchers performed a test that measured stress levels, and aggression levels. Both of these levels were significantly reduced.
Massage and Cognitive Impairment
The results of a study titled “Massage in the Management of Agitation in Nursing Home Residents with Cognitive Impairment” indicate that massage therapy can potentially reduce agitated behavior in nursing-home residents with cognitive impairment. The study featured 52 residents, age 70 to 105, from two different nursing homes. Subjects ranged in age from 70 to 105. All subjects had a history of agitated behavior, as well as a diagnosis of either moderate or severe cognitive impairment.
The team of researchers measured five aspects of agitation at baseline, during the hands-on intervention and at follow-up one and two weeks later. The five assessed aspects of agitation included aimless wandering, verbally agitated and abusive dialogue, physically agitated, abusive, socially inappropriate, disruptive and abusive behavior, and complete resistance to any type of care.
The researchers rated all five aspects of agitation on a scale of zero to six, with zero indicating no sign whatsoever of the behavior, and six indicating severe aggression that required immediate intervention. The staff at both nursing homes identified a one-hour time frame for each patient, which they referred to as the agitation window.” It was during this window that the massage and assessments took place.
The massage therapists used gliding or sliding movements and light-to-moderate pressure during the 10 to 15 minute sessions. At the end of the two week study, the researchers reported reduced levels of agitation in all categories except socially disruptive behavior. Whilst regular massage therapy is not a cure-all for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, it might serve allow patients to minimize their medication dosages, thereby minimizing the harmful side effects associated with these drugs.
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