Before we consider compassionate touch or massage, and Alzheimer’s disease, we need to know what Alzheimer’s disease actually is. It is a neurological disorder characterized by a loss of memory, speechlessness and paralysis. It is a progressive disease that destroys parts of the brain, and is therefore incurable.
Compassionate Touch and Deciding on Massage Approach
For the person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who has lost memory, your compassionate touch may be the one thing with which he or she connects. Hold your loved one’s hands, give a gentle massage to his or her feet, legs, or arms. Even if the one suffering from Alzheimer’s does not recognize you and cannot communicate verbally, this is one way of reassurance and love. Alzheimer’s massage decreases physical agitation and improves sleep patterns in people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
A 26-minute video available on www.terranova.org – “Compassionate touch: benefits and effects in Alzheimer’s care” – shows the use of attentive touch and gentle massage in caring for and relating to people with Alzheimer’s disease. Massage is therapeutic and its application in Alzheimer’s disease has shown reduction in behaviors such as wandering, aggression and agitation.
The stimulation provided by massage helps Alzheimer patients to communicate physically. The direct physical contact provides the Alzheimer sufferers to relax, and so reducing the anxiety associated with it. The compassionate touch therapy through massage offers immense relief and aids the drug therapy, which the sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease may have been prescribed with. The massage therapy can be effective in two ways: it can induce relaxation by alleviating some of the anxiety associated with Alzheimer’s, and it can stimulate the nervous system that is in decline because of the disease.
The elderly sufferers of Alzheimer’s generally experience a loss of sensitivity to touch and the compassionate touch of massage can help to re-invigorate it. Alzheimer’s massage can have other benefits as well. In addition to helping eliminate or reduce anxiety, massage can also decrease the amount of pain experienced by Alzheimer’s sufferers. Compassionate touch is an expression of intimacy and emotional connectedness and if carried out by family members, can elicit increased contact and improved communication.
The relations between compassionate touch and Alzheimer’s is only being realized now. Alzheimer’s massage benefits the sufferers not only by relieving pain, but also by their over-all protection. Building the nervous system’s response to stimuli enables the elderly Alzheimer’s patients to resist physical and mental decline.