11 Off-beat Alzheimer’s therapies

This article come to us from alzlive.com.

Celebrate this most illusory of human emotions and the activities that can bring about well-being.

Dolls? Horses? Connect Four?

Believe it or not, these things can act as therapies for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Check out the quirky list below. See what other seemingly strange things can help your loved ones.

1) Aroma Therapy
Several essential oils—like Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Lemon Balm and Bergamot—have been shown to ease anxiety and sleep problems, as well as improve cognitive function and memory. Oils can be used in massages and baths, or through misting and direct inhalation, among other things. Therapy never smelled so good.

2) Puppeteering

Usually paired with music, puppet shows help to stimulate memories, build confidence, and improve social connections between residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Even people in the later stages Alzheimer’s and dementia benefit. Those who have become non-verbal react positively to puppet shows, often showing their engagement with the visual stimulus through their smiles.

3) Dog Therapypuuuup

Everyone loves puppies. Dogs provide stimulation for people with Alzheimer’s, helping to hold their attention and keep them connected to reality. Specially trained canines can also calm people who get agitated easily, and can be trained to know when to lead them away from stressful situation. Plus, dogs are great mood boosters. Seriously. Look at any puppy and try not to smile.

4) Laughing Yoga

Literally a group of people sitting in a room, laughing—it looks weird, but it works. Led by a facilitator, group members are encouraged to “fake it ’til they make it,” forcing laughter until it becomes genuine. Bouts of laughter are interspersed with yogic breathing. The practice is particularly good for those with Alzheimer’s because it allows people to laugh without necessarily having to understand a joke. In clinical studies, laughter has been shown to elevate mood an reduce anxiety.

Connect Four: The vertical 4-in-a-row checkers game

5) Connect Four 

No clinical studies have been done to specifically measure the benefits of Connect Four. But at George Brown College’s School of Health and Wellness in Toronto, Ont., students who are completing co-op placements in long-term care facilities use Connect Four to bond with residents. The large game pieces and straightforward instructions are well-suited to those with dementia. Playing the game helps them to strengthen their motor skills, and acts as an easy, non-intimidating way to interact socially.

6) Horse Therapy
A study conducted by the Ohio State University, an equine therapy center and an adult daycare center found that with supervision, people with Alzheimer’s could safely groom, feed and walk horses. These activities had therapeutic benefits: the experience boosted participants’ moods, and made them less likely to resit care or become agitated later in the day.

7) Bunny Therapy 

At the Country Care Rehabilitation Center in Santa Margarita, California, speech pathologist Laura VanDerLind uses her two-pound Netherland dwarf rabbit named Chubby Bunny to help calm and engage participants during sessions. “Why do nursing home dementia patients cry and get agitated?” she writes. “They’re confused and scared. They know something is wrong, but it doesn’t resolve. Pet therapy helps improve their morale without making demands.”

8) Doll Therapy
Admittedly, baby dolls can look a little creepy, but they have immense benefits for those with dementia. Dolls can bring back positive memories of parenting, making people feel useful and needed. In studies, they’ve also been shown to reduce aggression and anxiety in people with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

9) Video game therapy
They’re not just for kids! In multiple studies, “excergames,” which require players to perform physical tasks, were shown to improve mobility and balance while reducing the risk of injury and disease in those living with dementia. They have also been shown to slow coginitive decline in older adults with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.


10) Bright Light Therapy
Exposure to bright light is good for our brains and can help reduce depression and keep our wake-sleep cycles in check. Studies have also shown that habitual exposure to bright light slows cognitive decline and reduces the effects of sundowning. Products like the HappyLight Deluxe Sunshine Supplement Light System can be used to mimic bright sunlight.

11) Snoezelen Rooms

Psychedelic-looking Snoezelen rooms are designed to stimulate the senses—touch, smell, sight and sound— and are used to call up positive memories, as well as to relax and calm whoever is using them. They are filled with things like fiber optic bubble tubes, moving lights, projectors, rockers, artwork and aromatherapy. While they’re a bit difficult to build at home, there are about 1,200 Snoezelen rooms across North America.


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