3 Innovative Therapy Options for Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
With increases in the numbers of individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, substantial research has been done recently to try and find new and promising ways to manage and treat these conditions. While much of the research in the past has centered around using prescription drugs and natural supplements, there are a number of emerging therapies that are proving successful at helping individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Pet therapy, also referred to as animal therapy, has found traction for individuals dealing with a wide range of medical conditions including diabetes, PTSD, and anxiety. However, pet therapy also has been found to have a number of significant benefits for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, both in terms of helping with interaction and helping patients to manage the day-to-day effects of their conditions.
For example, trained and certified service dogs can help individuals make their way through their daily routines and use their sense of smell to guide people to important locations if the person has trouble remembering where they are going or how to get there. Additionally, these animals provide invaluable companionship to individuals who may have trouble maintaining relationships with other humans.
Research has shown that Alzheimer’s and dementia patients frequently interact and bond with animals in a way that they no longer do with people, and display increased levels of interaction with these caring creatures. Whether a person has a permanent service dog or they simply have regular visits from a volunteer dog, interacting with animals can have significant benefits on those living with dementia.
Art therapy provides individuals dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease with an outlet for expressing their thoughts and emotions when their words might fail them. Individuals living with dementia can experience significant frustration and result in isolation from being unable to effectively communicate with others due to their memory loss.
Because it doesn’t rely on verbal communication to allow deep and meaningful expression, many dementia and Alzheimer’s patients are able to experience significant improvements to their mood and emotional health after expressing themselves through activities like drawing and painting. Even when words fail a patient, they are still able to effectively communicate their feelings, fears, and hopes, alleviating the frustration that often comes from being unable to articulate these thoughts and emotions.
Listening to and interacting with music has a number of significant benefits for patients with dementia. Numerous studies have shown that even the passive act of listening to music can help to stimulate brain activity. However, music can also help individuals with memory loss to recall certain activities, actions, or memories. This can be effective when trying to help a patient recall an earlier memory or experience, and it can also be extremely useful when trying to help individuals build new responses or patterns of behavior.
Therapists can match a specific song or type of music to a specific activity and then repeat that music later when they want an individual to repeat the learned behavior or response. Even once a patient has entered the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, music can still be used to elicit certain responses from an individual, as patients do not require cognitive processing in order to do things like enjoy/appreciate music, sing, or play a specific rhythm.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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