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In the News: Massage Therapy and Alzheimer's Disease

Massage Therapy and Alzheimer's Disease

Understanding The Need

It’s no secret the population is aging and life expectancy is increasing. But some of the numbers regarding aging might surprise you. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.3 million people currently have Alzheimer’s disease, and the disease is the seventh leading cause of death in adults. Particularly with the aging population, some estimates suggest that 16 million people will have Alzheimer’s by the year 2050.

“It’s been said that in 25 years, the United States will have two kinds of people: those who have Alzheimer’s disease and those who are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease,” says Ann Catlin, founder of the Center for Compassionate Touch and an expert in the field of massage therapy in elder care and hospice.

The Benefits

There are several benefits massage therapy offers people with Alzheimer’s disease, including increased body awareness and alertness, as well as a reduction in the feelings of confusion and anxiety. “You also build reassurance and trust,” says Catlin, “and help calm agitation.”
Massage therapy can also help ease the effects of isolation, loneliness and boredom while encouraging feelings of worthiness and well-being, Catlin believes.

The Research

Although Catlin believes that more research needs to be done, she does point to studies that indicate that the use of some forms of massage are effective in managing some of the challenging behavior exhibited by elders living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
For example, a 2002 study by R. Remington on the effect calming music and hand massage had on agitated behavior in persons with dementia found that both calm music and hand massage reduced verbal agitation. The benefit was sustained for up to one hour.

What is Alzheimer's Disease?

The Alzheimer’s Association defines the disease as a gradual onset, progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior, reducing the ability to perform routine activities. Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia include memory loss, confusion,difficulty communicating, disorientation in time and place, mood swings, restlessness, sleeplessness, behavioral disturbances, personality changes and perceptual motor problems. To date, there is no known cause or cure, and treatment for symptoms usually involves drug therapy. For more information, visit alz.org.

Source: This article was excerpted from mtj® (Massage Therapy Journal®) Winter 2011. Subscribe to read the entire article

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