Massage and Dementia:
Showing Care and Making a Connection.
Some of the most rewarding interventions with people living with Dementia are those that allow you to spend time meaningfully engaged with that person. Massage allows you to spend that time with someone- communicating through the therapeutic aspects of touch as well as allowing you insights into where that person is at, at that particular time (frightened? disorientated? confused? contented?).
It may give enormous comfort to the recipient and further cement the emotional connection you already have. As a family member, facilitating the process may allow you to feel more able to bring some comfort to your loved one at times when they may be becoming distressed, reducing your own feelings of helplessness as a carer.
What could be classified as a “comfort massage”, with an older adult living with Dementia, the aim of the massage is not restorative or curative ( as in sports massage for example), but is more about sharing a soothing experience; about providing comfort; about providing reassurance; about feeling connected; about feeling safe and secure; about building on your trusting relationship; about not feeling alone.
It allows the recipient to experience the “connectedness” that is sometimes absent in Dementia.
It sends the message that they are valued and loved; that they are important and part of “a bigger something”. Most of all, it provides a valuable respite from the on-going struggle of trying to make sense of the world as they perceive it.
The physiological benefits of massage are well documented, and these are especially important for the frail elderly with Dementia. The psychological benefits are equally as important to this group of individuals. Massage has been shown to decrease Cortisol levels (a stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands at times of prolonged stress), whilst increasing Serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter that is described as a natural mood stabilizer which aids sleeping, appetite and digestion). Massage helps promote the production/release of Endorphins (the body’s own natural opioid, which reduces pain and makes you feel happy). These neurochemical changes collectively help the individual with Dementia feel less distressed and more contented.
Dementia is a disease that causes great distress to the person living with Dementia and to those who love and care for that person.
Massage may take a little of that distress away, from both carer and cared for.
Massaging is easy yet profound providing us all with a caring present and future.
I hope you enjoyed this post and feel free to get in touch,