Therapies for Dementia & Alzheimer’s Disease

happy-senior-and-caregiverDespite researcher’s best efforts, the number of people struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are on the rise throughout the nation. It can be quite overwhelming to sort through the available information if you have a loved one who is struggling with the disease.

Some forms of treatment are rather controversial, while others are not fully understood. Instead, we wanted to offer you three different alternative treatments that have shown to affect those people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in a positive way.

Therapy #1 – Pet therapy

This type of therapy (sometimes referred to as animal therapy) has cats, dogs, and a number of other animals as companions for people living with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies have shown that people with dementia are able to identify animals as non-threatening and friendly. As a result, people who have Alzheimer’s often interact with animals far more than they do with other people.

A few of the benefits of pet therapy include:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased appetite
  • An increased amount of physical activity an individual participates in
  • Increased pleasure
  • Reduced agitation

Therapy #2 – Music therapy

According to studies, music can be used to help improve the physical and mental wellbeing of people living with dementia. There are a number of reasons why, that include the following:

  • It provides chances to interact socially with others
  • It offers structure that promotes  continuous or rhythmic movement or vocal fluency
  • It offers a level of stimulation that promotes interest, even when other approaches have been deemed ineffective
  • Non-pharmacological management of  discomfort and pain
  • Positive changes in moods and emotional states
  • Improved memory recall

One of the reasons that music therapy is as successful as it is for Alzheimer’s patients is because well-rehearsed and rhythmic components require very little to no mental or cognitive processing. These parts of the brain directly respond to auditory rhythmic cues. This means that most patients living with dementia will be able to enjoy music therapy until well into the progression of the disease. There are a number of other benefits to music therapy:

  • Music can help promote creative positive interactions, manage stress, and alter moods
  • Music connects through physical closeness and emotion
  • Music can help recall a memory by evoking emotion
  • Studies show that music can boost brain activity

Therapy #3 – Art Therapy

Art can help people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to find a calming way to express their emotions and communicate their thoughts and feelings. It is possible to use the artistic process to bypass the roadblocks to verbal communication imposed by dementia. Like music, art helps stimulate people on a number of different levels. The stimulation experienced here is on a relational, emotional, sensory, cognitive, and neurological level. Some of the benefits experienced include:

  • Social recognition
  • The chance to validate one’s personal experience
  • The opportunity to have positive emotions
  • A decrease in overall levels of anxiety
  • Improvement in participants feelings of mood and well being
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