Alzheimer’s disease has become increasingly common and still remains one of the leading causes of death in seniors today. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 3 seniors are dying because of Alzheimer’s or dementia. While a cure has yet to be found, effective alternatives exist to manage the disease.
Alzheimer’s or dementia happens over time due to the loss of connections in the brain caused by cell death. The following are forms of therapy that have been proven to strengthen connections and help with memory loss and cognitive functioning:
Aromatherapy – Aromatherapy essential oils are volatile plant oils that improve psychological and physical health, prevent disease and affect mood. Depending on the type of plant oil used, each has its own purpose for providing benefits and easing certain Alzheimer’s-related side effects. Aromatherapy essential oils may be practiced in a variety of ways such as inhalation, absorption through skin and air diffusion. Some oils that provide effective aromatherapy for Alzheimer’s are:
- Lavender – Used as an antidepressant, lavender promotes better sleep. It is also commonly used to calm and balance strong emotions, that otherwise, a patient may not be able to control.
- Lemon Balm – This oil is used to alleviate anxiety and battle insomnia, a common side effect of Alzheimer’s.
- Peppermint – This oil is used as a sensory stimulation for the mind and to calm nerves. Energy and appetite stimulants are other uses for peppermint oil.
- Rosemary – This herb is proven to aid cognitive performance in both speed and accuracy measures. In addition, the stimulation rosemary creates helps to improve one’s mood.
- Bergamot – Native to Central America, this citrus plant is used to relieve stress, anxiety and mild depression. Those suffering from insomnia have also sought relief from bergamot.
- Ylang-ylang – Ylang-ylang is a tropical tree indigenous to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. It has been known to help with depression while simultaneously promoting sound sleep. This oil can be used not only for the patient, but also the caregiver, who may be suffering from lack of sleep.
Light Therapy – Light therapy is another effective alternative for battling Alzheimer’s and dementia. Light therapy is a bright, full-spectrum light on the magnitude of 5,000 to 10,000 LUX, which is shown to reset a routine in patients. Exposure to this light helps with sleeping disorders together with spending more time in deep sleep. Lack of sleep is one of the main side effects of the disease and worsens memory retention. A form of therapy such as light therapy aids that side effect, supporting memory recollection in the long term.
Light therapy can be done in a variety of places including a sensory room. Sensory rooms are special rooms designed to develop a person’s senses through special lighting or music. Activating senses in the brain can often trigger memories, as they tend to be associated with a certain sense. For example, we may recall a memory through the sense of smell.
Art Therapy – Another effective alternative therapy is found through art and activity professionals. Art therapy doesn’t always have to be hands-on and comes in many forms. Touring art museums or attending art shows affects creative activity for a patient and helps with memory retention. Art therapy is an enjoyable form of Alzheimer’s treatment making it a commonly used one.
Whether a patient is creating art or experiencing it, this therapy is a sensory stimulation that can help the patient create memories. In some instances, if a patient is suffering from memory deficits, they can try to make something of what they do remember.
Music Therapy – This can involve both making and enjoying music. Listening to familiar songs is highly regarded as a way to assist with memory loss. While singing familiar songs, we tend to think of memories that tie into those songs or moments that have happened while listening to them. This recall boosts the mood of the patient and unblocks forgotten memories.
Alzheimer’s does not affect older memories until later in the process. Because of that, patients are still able to bring long-term memories into focus. Selecting older songs (or oldies) is preferred because we tend to have happier associations with songs from our past.
If you or a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, the Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) and Home Health Aides (HHAs) referred by Granny NANNIES are trained to provide the special care required and can do so in the privacy and comfort of home. Alongside therapy and other preventative actions, CNAs and HHAs assist in routine, daily activities such as personal care, as well as with monitoring cognitive risk factors.