Reflexology & Dementia
Watching a loved one suffer from Alzheimer's or Dementia can be a traumatic and emotionally draining thing. And although, unfortunately, there is no cure for either disease, there are ways to make life easier for sufferers and in turn easier for their families.
Alzheimer's and Dementia are degenerative diseases that cause brain cells to wither away and die. As a result, sufferers experience memory loss, difficulty finding words, extreme confusion along with many other symptoms. In times of extreme confusion, sufferers can become frustrated and stressed which can cause them to lash out aggressively, or retreat within themselves and shut down.
There have been multiple studies that show the act of reflexology (both hand and foot) can help relax dementia sufferers. Here’s how:
Reflexology as a practise is often used as a complementary therapy to help reduce both physical and emotional stress on the body. The nature of a reflexology massage is to stimulate various pressure points that create a decongestant effect on blockages throughout your body. In doing this, you can alleviate stress and create a more relaxed environment. Dawn Nelson observed that a short reflexology hand massage can help alleviate anxiety and create a sense of peace and calm (1).
There are a number of studies and trials that surround the topic of reflexology and pain that suggest consistent reflexology massages can help to alleviate pain and improve general health and well being. Nancy A Hodgson RN PhD CS (2) states that reflexology “may be an effective treatment for older adults with dementia, appearing to relieve pain and improve psychological well being”.
A huge stressor from some dementia sufferers is physical contact. They can perceive even the slightest touch as aggression and become extremely stressed and agitated. It is extremely important for dementia and Alzheimer sufferers to feel safe with whomever performs their reflexology massage, we suggest that practitioners take the time to identify shifts in the person's mood and halt the massage if it becomes apparent it is doing more harm than good.
While hand reflexology can be a great way to engage in the practice of reflexology with older adults as this touch can be seen as familiar. Reflexology footwear or insoles such as those found here at Revs offer a no contact reflexology solution that can last longer than a standard 15 minute hand massage.
For Dementia and Alzheimer sufferers, we would recommend our insoles or our reflexology slippers. As always, we strongly suggest that wearers ‘break in’ their Revs by wearing them for 10-30 minutes a day for 2-3 weeks to allow the body to adequately
- Nelson, Dawn. From the Heart Through the Hands The Power of Touch in Caregiving. 2nd ed., Findhorn Press, 2006.
- Hodgson, Nancy A, RN, PhD, CS; Efficacy of Reflexology as a Palliative Treatment in Nursing Home Residents with Dementia, Pilate Study , July 2006.