A close-up of a white senior lady. She’s wearing glasses and a red shirt. She has big white headphones on.

Dementia is an intrinsically complex disease. In fact, it’s not just one disease — there are over 400 different types. Dementia is a term describing a series of medical conditions that cause a decline in cognitive abilities, behaviour, and a person’s overall sense of wellbeing. These symptoms will eventually disrupt the person’s ability to navigate daily activities alone, leading to dedicated, round-the-clock care.

All this means that a one-size-fits-all approach to Dementia care simply won’t work effectively. Instead, it’s crucial to develop a hyper-personalized approach that pivots with and adapts to the person living with the disease.

If you or a loved one are living with Dementia, you’ll want to explore as many therapeutic options as possible to extend self-sufficiency and independence, all while making life more joyful, comfortable, and safe.

As Dementia Care specialists, we have our finger on the pulse of such options. We understand that people living with Dementia need Caregiver support that meets their everyday needs, as well as cognitive stimulation and, when appropriate, other alternative therapies that can soothe the mind and body.

As your Dementia Care provider of choice, we believe it’s important to keep ahead of the curve when it comes to the different types of therapy for Vascular Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and the other Dementias. Keeping an open mind and understanding that Dementia Care is multi-faceted and ever-evolving, allows us to modernize and grow when it comes to our diverse range of services.

Read on to learn more about alternative types of Dementia Therapy and how they can benefit you or your loved one, and how the Integracare Home Care team can incorporate alternative therapies into our carefully tailored and personalized Dementia Care plans.

What Are Alternative Therapies?

Alternative therapy is an encompassing term used to describe treatments that are non-pharmaceutical — meaning that they don’t incorporate lab-created drugs or medicines, surgeries, or other types of medicinal intervention.

Alternative therapies can be used in tandem with, or as a complementary treatment to, medically prescribed treatments. They can range from dietary changes to aromatherapy, from art to massage.

A senior man in a room living room with a bedroom in the background. He’s putting a record on a record player.

Music Therapy for Dementia

Music transcends language barriers, age groups and demographics. It can amplify our moods when we’re feeling happy and relax us on a sleepy Sunday morning. The hum of a familiar song can even soothe us during a moment of distress. This is no less true for people living with Dementia; research has shown that music may reduce agitation and other behavioural issues — symptoms commonly seen during the middle stages of the disease.

Further, in a study titled “Music Therapy in the Treatment of Dementia,” researchers found that musical interventions can improve cognitive function for people living with Dementia. It can improve the overall quality of life, and some improvements were shown for those experiencing long-term depression — another symptom often seen in those living with Dementia and in the senior population more broadly.

There are several benefits of music therapy for Dementia during the late stages of the disease, too. For many, verbal communication in the later stages may prove difficult. Music can be used to connect, delight and reminisce.

If you want to try music therapy with a loved one who’s living with Dementia, begin by choosing music that fits the mood — whether it’s an upbeat rhythm to clap and sing along to or you’re trying music therapy for Dementia to soothe and relax your loved one during a period of distress. Ask your loved one if there’s a song or artist they’d most like to hear.

Minimize distractions while the music’s playing. Choose a playlist that isn’t disrupted by adverts, turn off the television and close the windows. Overlapping and jarring noises can be distressing and confusing for those living with Dementia.

And lastly, start with the volume down low to test the waters before you turn the music up a little.

Massage Therapy for Dementia

Many of us who indulge in an after-work or weekend massage do so as a way to relax and unwind; Massage Therapy is also a powerful tool that can ease chronic pain and reduce stress.

These merits ring true for those living with Dementia. Here’s how Massage Therapy can help:

  • Older people often experience stiffness and pain in their muscles and joints. Massage therapy can alleviate some of these aches, as the practice increases blood flow and loosens up the muscles.
  • This increase in blood flow throughout the body can also improve a person’s gait and their sense of balance, reducing the potential for trips and falls. This is especially beneficial for those living with Vascular Dementia, where balance and movement can be impeded.
  • Massage Therapy is beneficial for mental health, too; it can help ease anxiety, irritability, and depression — all of which are commonly experienced by those living with the disease.
  • Massage Therapy can improve appetite, digestion, and elimination. Sometimes those living with Dementia can lose interest in food. This is especially dangerous because regular balanced and healthy meals are vital for overall wellbeing, health, and the ability to stave off sickness like colds and the flu.
  • And last, massage can help those living with Dementia get a proper night’s sleep. Restful, uninterrupted sleep can help with mental clarity and energy levels during the daytime.

These are just a few of the merits of Massage Therapy for Dementia.

Here at Integracare Home Care, we firmly believe in the benefits of Massage Therapy for those living with Dementia. That’s why we proudly offer Massage Therapy from one of our compassionate Registered Massage Therapists — staff who understand the nuances of Dementia Care — as a part of many of our Clients’ home health care packages.

An up-close shot of three brown essential oil roller bottles on a white table with dried flowers scattered around them.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy, diffusers, and lava-beaded jewelry have seen a surge in popularity in the past few years. While the notion of aromatherapy isn’t new — essential oils have been used one way or another for centuries — recent studies are shining a light on aromatherapy as a form of alternative Dementia Therapy.

Research into aromatherapy and Dementia is still developing, and the results are limited. But there’s some evidence that shows that different essential oils can help to soothe some of the symptoms of Dementia. For example, one controlled trial found that lemon balm appeared to improve cognitive clarity for some of the research participants.

And other essential oils — like lavender — have been shown to reduce anxiety, agitation, depression, and disturbed sleep, which are all symptoms of the disease.

Essential oils that are natural and derived from plants are safe to use if some measures are followed. If you know that a Senior in your care has used essential oils before, and that they aren’t sensitive to or troubled by aromas (always check with your doctor if you’re not sure), then partnering a hand massage with a diluted essential oil or adding a drop of oil to a pillow sachet at night may provide great comfort.

You might even find that the scent of cardamom is energizing, or that notes of magnolia calm and relax.

Light Therapy for Dementia

Light therapy is yet another developing form of Dementia Therapy. While light therapy is still in the early stages of testing, the results are promising. In a 2021 Spanish study titled “Bright Light Therapy in Older Adults with Moderate to Very Severe Dementia,” participants sat in front of a box that projected a light that was approximately 30 times brighter than the average office light; they did this for 30 minutes each day.

Researchers reported seeing “promising outcomes and immediate positive effects on mood, stimulation level, blood oxygen saturation, and heart rate.” However, they did note that during and after the sessions, some participants experienced reduced communication skills.

Another form of Light Therapy for Dementia is Photobiomodulation, which translates to using light to reverse biological processes. Research into this therapy is still in its early stages. Spearheaded by a Canadian researcher, results are promising: participants who wore headsets that transmitted near-infrared light into the brain reported feeling less anxiety and anger. They also experienced an increase in cognitive ability, better sleep and fewer instances of wandering.

While there’s too little evidence to confidently say or recommend this alternative therapy as of benefit to those living with Dementia, it will be interesting to see if there’s a future for Light Therapy as a therapeutic treatment.

Physiotherapy

Much like Massage Therapy, we also provide Physiotherapy services at home to many of our clients — a service we have offered for over 25 years.

Physiotherapy is beneficial for treating aches and pains in the joints. Physio can greatly improve the recovery process for those in recovery following an accident, injury, or surgery.

It can also be highly beneficial for those living with Dementia since joints may stiffen and muscles can tighten. Our Physiotherapists will work with their Clients to establish where their movement is most limited. They will then formulate a care plan that will work to encourage and promote physical activity in these areas, with the goal of improving strength and flexibility. This can help their Clients maintain their independence and mobility for as long as possible.

Not only does Physiotherapy work to improve one’s range of motion, but the simple act of routine exercise has been shown to boost the mood and cognitive abilities of those living with Dementia.

Two senior ladies on a park bench. One of them is holding a walking pole, the other has a small white curly-haired dog on her lap.

Pet and Animal-Assisted Therapy

One of the most significant benefits of aging in place (with help from a home care agency) is the ability to keep a beloved family pet. This is vital for many seniors who consider their cat, rabbit, dog, bird, or other animal to be an important part of the family. Being asked to rehome a furry companion, one who’s been in their lives for many years, can understandably cause undue sadness during what might be an already distressing time.

Not only does being able to keep a family pet alleviate any potential feelings of confusion and depression that would come with rehoming them, but simply having a pet around can improve mental and physical health. Pets have been shown to boost serotonin levels, reduce anxiety, lower our levels of stress, and manage high blood pressure.

In one focused study into animal-assisted therapy and its effects on those living with Dementia, researchers found that being around dogs decreased anxiety and sadness for participants while increasing the frequency and quality of physical activity — both of which boosted positive emotions.

Other research found that people living with Alzheimer’s disease who were also exposed to pet therapy experienced a significant reduction in feelings of agitation and outbursts of aggression. Further studies found that those living with Dementia who experienced animal-assisted therapy became more social, showing an increase in engagement with others.

If you have a family pet, or you frequently get to visit with a friend or family member who has an animal companion, you’ll know that being able to hug or stroke a cat, dog, or other loving animal can offer a moment of comfort and joy. These feelings still apply to those living with Dementia.

Other Dementia Therapy Activities

In addition to the few we have mentioned here, there are many other Dementia Therapy activities and other fun activities for Seniors that have proven benefits. For example:

  • Forest therapy, which has been shown to have a positive impact on mental wellbeing for people with early-stage Dementia, and
  • art therapy, which can help Seniors and those living with Dementia process some of the more complex emotions — like apathy and anger — that come with memory loss.

We Can Help Increase Quality of Life

At Integracare Home Care, our purpose-driven mission is to increase the quality of life for your loved one. Our compassionate and highly trained team of Caregivers will work with them and you to establish and address their needs as they change and evolve. This may involve employing some of the alternative Dementia Therapies mentioned here, like Massage Therapy or Physiotherapy.

If you or a loved one would like help, or to discuss the next stages of a Dementia Care plan, contact us today. We are always happy to answer your questions.