Can Reflexology Help Dementia?
Updated: Mar 22
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 remedy for Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, it can alleviate stress, relieve frustration, and provide much-needed relaxation for those affected by the condition. In this blog post, we will provide a brief overview of the key topics covered in the webinar.
Reflexology Calms Reflexology has a significant calming effect, making it a valuable tool for inducing relaxation. Consistent reflexology sessions can aid in reducing stress in individuals living with dementia. The experience of memory loss and confusion can be highly distressing and lead to anxiety. However, reflexology can serve as a preventative measure and help to minimize anxiety levels. It's crucial to administer 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 a crucial role in reducing cognitive decline induced by stress. Stress has the ability to impair our ability to think clearly. We've all experienced the phenomenon 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 grappling with persistent 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 facility can intensify memory loss and confusion. Reflexology can serve as an effective solution by reducing stress levels, and in turn, alleviating memory loss caused by stress. It's disheartening that memory loss and confusion are frequently accepted as an inevitable progression of dementia, when stress reduction could have a significant impact. It's important to investigate potential underlying reasons for any mental or physical decline in individuals with dementia, such as:
A change in medications
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 can help individuals with memory loss and confusion adapt more smoothly to new surroundings, such as a new senior facility.
Reflexology Can Connect
Reflexology has the ability to establish a profound connection with individuals at a deeper level. It can serve as a guide for individuals struggling with confusion, helping them return to reality.
In addition to its potential to alleviate physical symptoms, reflexology has also shown promise in helping individuals battling depression. I've worked with several clients who have struggled with depression, and the efficacy of reflexology never ceases to amaze me.
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. Through touch and the stimulation of reflex points, we can establish a deeper connection with individuals. I often refer to this as:
When Sole Touches Soul
In times of confusion or depression, words may not suffice. Reflexology's physical touch creates a profound inner connection with individuals struggling with confusion. It serves as a lifeline for those who feel lost or disconnected, guiding them back to a sense of safety and care.
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. The caregivers attend a one-hour weekly course in a room at the center while their employers participate in activities.
Upon completing the course and using hand reflexology on their clients with dementia, the caregivers reported significant benefits, including:
Improved caregiver-client relationship
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 to introduce 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 profound impact on the 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 wellbeing 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 facilities will integrate reflexology into their care plans and that more reflexology therapists will join the staff of these facilities.
At the end of the day, we must remember that people living with dementia are like all of us and they too want to feel safe, valued, and cared for. Reflexology is one way to help achieve this goal, and we encourage all caregivers to consider incorporating Hands-on Dementia into their care plans.
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