Alternative Dementia Therapies

If you or your loved one have been diagnosed with dementia, I understand that you may be feeling overwhelmed, scared, and anxious about the future. You’re not alone in your worries, and you’re certainly not alone in terms of care and treatment options.

Although there isn’t a cure for dementia, there are treatments that can enhance one’s quality of life. Aside from conventional treatments, there is a wide variety of alternative therapies available which focus on treating symptoms without drugs or invasive surgeries. These alternative therapies are meant to enhance well-being, improve behaviors, and in some cases, even cognitive functioning is positively affected.

It must be recognized that the term alternative differs from one country to the next. In Canada, we’re lucky in that we’re exposed to many different cultures. Although we’re exposed to various cultural values and practices, what is labeled as alternative therapy here, may be the norm in other areas of the world.

Also, if you or your loved one are interested in alternative therapy options, it’s important to speak to your health provider regarding the current treatment plan that’s been put in place. This is because some options, such as herbs, can interact with various medications. With that being said, there are some promising options, and they’re worth exploring.

What Alternative Therapies Are Available?

Depending on the needs of your loved one, you may be looking for a new approach. The following are some suggestions regarding alternative therapy options, in which you can discuss with health providers and experts who specialize in their select fields.

Reminiscence Therapy

This is typically a group activity in which people share memories from the past. This allows individuals to reconnect with years prior and regain a sense of who they are, strengthening their identity. Remember, Alzheimer’s mainly targets short-term memory. As the hippocampus becomes damaged, individuals lose the ability to form new memories.

The area that stores long-term memories isn’t generally affected until further in the progression of this syndrome. Connecting with your past when you have dementia can be very empowering, as many individuals can’t remember where they belong, resulting in feelings of disengagement and disconnect.

Reminiscence therapy encourages individuals to reconnect with old memories. You can use various aids to trigger memories, such as music, memory books, or personal objects. These aids will help stimulate memories so that individuals can share and reflect on their emotions. In many cases, once the memory is retrieved, the affected individual no longer needs the aid to recall rich details from the past.

Multi-Sensory Therapy Options

As you may expect from the name, this type of therapy aims to relax and bring comfort by providing various stimuli, which enhances relaxation and well-being. Stimulation can occur through visual, tactile, olfactory, auditory, and more.

Regardless of the therapy options, it’s important to evaluate and observe the individual’s response. Be mindful in your approach. If your loved one looks uncomfortable and is not responding in a positive manner, it may not be the best time or you may need to experiment with something else.

  1. Snoezelen Therapy

This is a type of multi-sensory therapy that aims to stimulate an individual, enhancing relaxation, positive well-being, and pleasure in their environment. This therapy is a combination of two Dutch words which essentially mean explore and relax. Individuals are placed in stimulating and soothing environments. This method is also used for those who suffer from autism and brain injuries.

  1. Montessori Method

This method is gaining traction in the caregiving community based on its ability to successfully engage those who are affected by dementia. Activities are created and designed to stimulate senses, breaking down these activities into small parts. This method aims to re-engage those who are affected by dementia, helping to maintain positive functioning for as long as possible.

When you target your loved one’s individual strengths, you can help preserve function and increase their quality of life. Whether activities are as simple as matching and folding a basket of socks, a safe afternoon baking, a simple puzzle, or any other activity your loved one enjoys, you’re supporting continuous engagement.

  1. Doll Therapy

To someone who is not suffering from dementia, giving an adult a doll and pretending that the doll is a child, may seem a little odd. The truth is, the need to connect and nurture is what makes us human. We care for our young and nurture those we connect to. For this to work, however, everyone needs to participate.

When I say that you need to participate in order for this therapy to be successful, I mean you can’t place the doll in a box or cupboard at night. The doll would need to have its own little sleeping area, perhaps an old crib. Although it may seem odd at first, your loved one’s response to the doll isn’t hurting anyone.

In fact, it offers them an opportunity to care for something and feel emotion. It’s all about helping them harness their remaining abilities. This is not only great for women but men as well. Many older gentlemen connect their doll with a grandchild or child of their own.

These are just a few of the options currently available. If you’re interested in trying something new and are looking to preserve your loved one’s abilities for as long as possible, explore your options. It is a rewarding experience for both of you, as they reconnect, and you watch them come to life.

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