Nontraditional Therapies to Help Someone With Alzheimer's
8 approaches to aid memory and ease stress
Conventional treatment for Alzheimer's disease focuses on medication, emotional support, and forms of behavior modification to help a person remember better and cope with everyday activities. Here are some additional forms of therapy that have also been found useful for people with the disease. You can find therapists who provide such services or adapt them for use at home.
Note that no therapy of any kind has been found to reverse the effects of Alzheimer's. But it's possible to slow its course or simply improve the quality of life for someone battling the disease.
1. Pet therapy for Alzheimer's patients
As many pet owners will attest, just being around an animal can have a soothing effect. This is the idea behind pet therapy for people with Alzheimer's disease, who are at particular risk for anxiety and depression. In this kind of therapy, the pet's human companion introduces the animal -- whether it's a dog, cat, guinea pig, or other domestic pet -- to the person with Alzheimer's and helps the interaction go smoothly and safely. These visits generally occur in nursing homes, adult day centers, and hospitals, but of course the idea can be used in the home as well.
The benefits of pet therapy include lowering anxiety and stress, encouraging communication, improving mood, and lowering blood pressure. People with Alzheimer's may feel especially comfortable with a pet because it lets them interact nonverbally.
- What you can do: The person you're caring for probably isn't capable of looking after a pet, so it's not a good idea to run out and buy her a kitten unless someone is available around the clock to provide its care. But even pet therapy that doesn't involve direct contact with pets -- bird-watching and looking at an aquarium -- seems to have positive effects. Research funded by the Pet Care Trust, a nonprofit foundation, and conducted by Purdue University, found that Alzheimer's patients provided with aquariums gained weight (indicating better nutritional intake -- people with Alzheimer's often have trouble eating adequately) and showed less aggression. Try setting up an aquarium or bird feeders outside a favorite window view.