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Reflexology to the Rescue

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Last week we gave a free webinar, The Power of Touch that explained how reflexology can help people living with dementia

Reflexology is not a cure for Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, but

reflexology calms, helps overcome frustration and confusion and has even helped people connect back to the present.

Here is a short summary of some of the topics we covered in the webinar.

Reflexology Calms

One of the major benefits of Reflexology is that it induces relaxation. When given regularly, reflexology helps people relax and feel calmer.

Dealing with memory loss and/or confusion is extremely stressful and can easily cause anxiety. Reflexology can prevent and reduce this anxiety. It is important to give reflexology at the first sign of agitation and not wait till a person is in a state of anxiety or panic. Normally a person will not want to be touched in this state.

We have seen that regular, short hand reflexology sessions can reduce distress during sundowning. Sundowning is a term used to describe confusion and/or agitation later in the day. You can read more about how stress can affect memory loss in our previous blog Stress and Dementia.

Reflexology for Memory Loss

Reflexology can reduce cognitive decline that is due to Stress.

When we are stressed, we have trouble thinking. Many of us have experienced going blank before a test or before going on stage. How many times when we are in a rush to get out of the house, we can't remember where we put our keys or wallet! This is due to stress preventing our brain cells from working properly. If we can reduce the stress, our brain can work better again.

Now imagine if you were suffering from memory loss and/or confusion how stressful that must be. The stress from the situation could cause more memory loss! If an additional stress factor is added, such as a move to a new home or facility, this can cause much more increased memory loss and confusion.

Here is where reflexology can be so significant. It can reduce the stress and thus reduce the memory loss associated with this stress.

I find it very sad that often more memory loss and/or confusion is accepted as part of the progression of dementia when it might be helped by stress reduction. Please do not accept any mental or physical decline as normal just because someone has dementia. Always check for possible reasons for the change.

Check if:

  • There has been a change in medications

  • There is physical discomfort

  • The person may have a UTI (Urinary Tract Infection)

  • Something might be triggering stress (changes in staff, caregivers, other residents or routines.)

We have also found that reflexology can help a person with memory loss and confusion acclimate easier to their new surroundings, such as a new facility.

Reflexology Can Connect

Touch can connect with a person at a deeper level and reflexology can be the guide to help someone return to reality when they seem lost.

Reflexology has helped people who suffer from depression. I have worked with several clients who had depression and I am always amazed how well reflexology can help.

One of my clients wrote about receiving reflexology while hospitalized for depression:

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

This is the magic of reflexology. Through touch and working reflex points, we can connect at a much deeper level with people. I often call this:

When Sole Touches Soul

When a person is in a state of confusion and/or depression, sometimes words are not enough. Besides feeling the physical touch, reflexology creates a deep inner connection with a person who is confused.

I feel that reflexology sends a lifeline that the person can use to find their way back to reality. Reflexology can allow the person who feels lost or confused to feel safe again knowing someone is there who cares.

Live-in Caregivers Learn Hand Reflexology At the Savion Adult Day Care Center in Kfar Saba, we have run several pilot programs that teach Foreign Live-in Caregivers hand reflexology.

The caregivers come to study one hour a week in a room at the center while their employers are attending activities there. After completing the course and using hand reflexology on their employers who have dementia, the caregivers reported that reflexology:

•Induces better sleep

•Prevents Anxiety

•Helps with digestion issues

•Creates a better relationship between caregiver and client

•Improves mood

Better sleep can be extremely important for both the person living with dementia and the caregiver. If reflexology can help someone sleep 7 or 8 hours instead of 5 or 6 hours, the person who gets more sleep will most probably wake up in a better mood and will be able to focus better. The caregiver, who now will have an extra 1 or 2 hours to sleep or have time for themselves, will also feel better and will be able to be a better caregiver.

We are very proud that we presented our work about Teaching Live- in Caregivers Hand Reflexology at the International Alzheimer's Disease Conference 2022 (ADI2022). This is the first-time reflexology was part of a conference on dementia and we are very excited to be the first to introduce to professionals around the world how this non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical technique may help.

Click here or the photo to read our abstract:

Reflexology in Nursing Homes

We have taught several Hands-on Dementia Courses in Nursing homes. The staff reported that giving reflexology to the residents who are living with dementia:

  • Calms

  • Allows better participation in activities

  • Improves sleep

  • May reduce amount of medication

  • Relaxes muscles (especially for people who have Parkinson’s)

  • Promotes better digestion

  • Allows for easier adaptation to the facility

Reflexology is a simple, safe, yet effective method that should be taught and used by caregivers and senior facility staff to reduce anxiety and connect with those who are living with dementia. Reflexology can improve the wellbeing of a person who is confused and/or has memory loss and can be especially helpful for new residents to adapt to their surroundings.

It would be wonderful if more reflexologists were part of senior facility staff to help reduce residents' anxiety and help them feel safe.


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