Alzheimer’s, as defined by the Alzheimer’s Association, is “a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.” Symptoms, while mild early on, get worse over time, eventually becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.
Sadly, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. So treatment focuses on alternative therapies and activities that directly involve the person with Alzheimer’s. One of the benefits of using these therapies is that they may reduce behavioral symptoms of the disease, including agitation, anger, frustration, depression, wandering or rummaging.
Therapies benefit the patient most when they focus on the person’s previous interests. This is because they spark memories, thus taking advantage of the person’s remaining skills while minimizing those that are compromised. Bringing out these memories can also reinforce a person’s sense of belonging in a group, providing friendship and mutual support.
What kinds of therapeutic treatments are used?
Any number of activities may be beneficial, but it largely depends on the individual. Different activities may affect symptoms in some but not in others. Those that are most successful are previous hobbies or interests of the person with Alzheimer’s. These may be gardening, music, cooking or painting. Routine plays a large part in success. Activities that are done regularly help establish routine and increase the person’s sense of stability. Some common therapies are:
Music Therapy – Music has power during all stages of Alzheimer’s. Music can improve moods, decrease agitation, coordinate motor movements, encourage positive interactions, and facilitate cognitive function. This is because rhythmic responses require little to no cognitive or mental processing. Rather, they are influenced by the motor center of the brain that responds directly to auditory rhythmic cues. A person’s can engage in music late into the disease process. Music provides a way to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult.
Art Therapy – Art Therapy works best when the project is kept on an adult level. Building conversation into the project provides encouragement. Discussing what they are creating helps them reminisce about the past. The actual activity will probably come naturally to them once they start on the project. It’s important to use only materials that are safe – that is, no sharp tools!
Bright light Therapy – Sleep disorders are common in persons with dementia. Bright lights have been found to be beneficial as a treatment for these sleep disturbances. In bright light therapy, a person sits in front of a light box that provides about 30 times more light than the average office light. This type of therapy can result in less daytime sleeping and increased night-time sleeping.
Garden Therapy – Therapeutic gardens are specially maintained gardening facilities that help people remain connected with nature. Research indicates that physical and visual access to nature help people recover from illness quicker, reduces stress and lowers blood pressure. Spending time outside also helps a person maintain circadian rhythms (the sleep/wake cycle). Therapeutic gardens cover all senses – watching sunsets, smelling fragrant flora and listening to cascading water are all ways to excite the senses is a positive way. These activities are very important because they help a person remain connected to the world around them and remind them of the outdoor activities they used to enjoy.
While none of these therapies offer a cure, they can lessen the symptoms associated with the disease and bring more joyful moments for the patient. Everyone involved in the care including, doctor, nursing staff, social worker and caregivers can help you determine what types of activities might be best. At Inspired Care Home Health, we learn everything we can about the client so we can identify the activities that client enjoys, or used to enjoy, and find caregivers with the same interests through our Personality Mapping technique. Our caregivers are highly trained on caring for Alzheimer’s patients.
We understand how hard it is to have your loved one suffer through Alzheimer’s. Call us at 847-787-7572 for free consultation.