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Can Reflexology Help People with Dementia?

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

Blog post by Oran Aviv

We recently hosted a webinar titled "The Power of Touch," which explained the benefits of reflexology for individuals living with dementia. While reflexology is not a cure or remedy for Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, it can support stress reduction and give much-needed support to those affected by their condition. In this post we share how reflexology can help people who are living with dementia, the results of our pilot program with live-in caregivers that was presented at the Alzheimer's International Conference ADI2022, and how reflexology has helped nursing home residents.

Reflexology Calms Reflexology seems to have a significant calming effect, making it a valuable tool for supporting relaxation. Consistent reflexology sessions can aid in reducing stress in individuals living with dementia. Living with memory loss and confusion can be very distressing and can lead to anxiety. However, reflexology can serve as a preventative measure and help to minimize anxiety levels. It's important to give reflexology as soon as the first signs of agitation appear, rather than waiting until an individual is in a state of panic, as most individuals may not want to be touched at this stage.

We've found that brief reflexology sessions during the day can significantly reduce distress during sundowning, a term used to describe late-day confusion or agitation. If you'd like to learn more about the relationship between stress and dementia, check out our previous blog post titled Stress and Dementia.

Reflexology for Memory Loss Reflexology can play an important role in reducing cognitive decline induced by stress. Stress has the ability to impair our ability to think clearly. We've all experienced the distress of drawing a blank before a test or performance or the frustration of misplacing our keys or wallet while rushing out the door. Stress can hinder proper brain cell functioning, making it difficult to recall information. For individuals living with memory loss and confusion, the situation can be extremely stressful and may exacerbate their memory loss. Stressors such as moving to a new home or senior community can intensify memory loss and confusion. Reflexology can serve as an effective solution by reducing stress levels, and in turn, alleviate memory loss caused by stress. It is sad that increased memory loss and confusion are almost always accepted as an inevitable progression of dementia when it actually may be stress that is causing the change. It's important to investigate potential underlying reasons for any mental or physical decline in individuals with dementia, such as:

  • A change in medications

  • Physical discomfort

  • A UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)

  • Stress triggers like changes in staff, caregivers, residents, or routines.

In addition to stopping cognitive decline due to stress, we've found that reflexology may help individuals with memory loss and confusion adapt more smoothly to new surroundings, such as a new senior community.

Reflexology Can Connect

I have witnessed how reflexology has the ability to establish a profound connection with individuals at a deeper level. It can support those who are struggling with confusion, by helping them feels safe.

I've worked with several clients who have struggled with depression and it never ceases to amaze me how effective reflexology can be,.

One of my clients, who received reflexology while hospitalized for depression, expressed their experience with the following words

"You brought life back into my body and soul just with your touch."

This is the magic of reflexology. We can establish a deeper connection with individuals through touch and the stimulation of reflex points. I often refer to this as:

When Sole Touches Soul

In times of confusion or depression, words may not be enough. Reflexology's physical touch creates an important connection with individuals who are confused or depressed. It serves as a lifeline for those who feel lost or disconnected, guiding them back to feel safe with us.

Live-in Caregivers Learn Hand Reflexology At the Savion Adult Day Care Center in Kfar Saba, we have conducted several pilot programs to teach hand reflexology to live-in caregivers of people who have dementia. The caregivers attend a one-hour weekly class in a room at the center while their employers participate in activities.

Upon completing the workshop and using hand reflexology on their clients with dementia, the caregivers reported significant benefits, including:

  • Improved sleep

  • Reduced anxiety

  • Better digestion

  • Improved caregiver-client relationship

  • Enhanced mood

Quality sleep is crucial for both the person with dementia and the caregiver. Reflexology can help the person sleep for longer hours, which can result in waking up in a better mood and with improved focus. Additionally, the caregiver, who now has more time to sleep or take care of themselves, can provide better care to their clients.

Reflexology Presented at the Alzheimer's Disease Conference

We are honored to have had the opportunity to present our work on Teaching Live-in Caregivers Hand Reflexology at the International Alzheimer's Disease Conference 2022 (ADI2022). This marks the first time reflexology has been featured at a conference on dementia, and we are thrilled to have been the pioneers in introducing this non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical technique to professionals around the world. We are proud to have played a role in raising awareness of how reflexology may be able to help those living with dementia, and we look forward to continuing to advocate for the integration of reflexology into dementia care. Click here or the photo to read our abstract:

Reflexology in Nursing Homes

We have had the opportunity to teach Hands-on Dementia in several nursing homes. The results have been incredible. Staff members have reported that reflexology can have a great impact on residents living with dementia, including:

  • Calming them down

  • Allowing them to participate more fully in activities

  • Improving sleep quality

  • Potentially reducing the amount of medication needed

  • Relaxing muscles, particularly for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease

  • Promoting better digestion

  • Making it easier for residents to adapt to their new living situation

It’s heartwarming to see how such a non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical technique can make a significant difference in the lives of those living with dementia

In conclusion, reflexology is a safe and effective technique that can benefit older people living with dementia. By reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation, reflexology can improve the well-being of both residents and caregivers.

Through our experiences in teaching hand reflexology to live-in caregivers and nursing home staff, we have seen the positive impact that this technique can have on older people. It is our hope that more senior communities will integrate reflexology into their care plans and that more reflexology therapists will join the staff of these facilities.


Did you know you can learn Hands-on Dementia on your own? Read about our eBook below. Scroll down to subscribe to our weekly blog posts.

Please contact us if you would like to arrange a Hands-on Dementia and/or Validation workshop for the staff at your facility:

👉🏽Our videos for self-care and tips for caregivers

👉🏽To sigh up for our next Webinars:

Our next hands-on Dementia for Reflexology Therapists is in Vancouver on August 13, 2023 The workshop is limited to 20 participants.

👉🏽Join our new Facebook Group:

Learn Hands-on Dementia at your own pace!

You can now learn how to use simplified hand reflexology to help and connect with your loved one who is living with dementia and as well as use it for your own self-care.

Hands-On Dementia For Caregivers,

A step by step guide to learn 3 reflex points to help your loved one and yourself.

Our ebook includes video clips for self -learning. Get it now while it is still on sale!

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