Everyone knows that there’s more to quality health care than just medicine. That’s why, as Alzheimer’s remains an incurable disease, health care providers, memory care communities, researchers, and families are making strides in alternative therapies that can lessen symptoms and improve quality of life. From high-tech to low or no-tech, these alternative methods at coping with Alzheimer’s are both innovative and promising.
A New Way to Puzzle: Memory care communities have noticed that customized computer tablets, like the iPad, can be successful therapy tools. Puzzles, activities, and reminder prompts are all helpful to those with impaired memory. The games are simple, entertaining, and make great mind-exercisers. Plus, completing puzzles and games on the tablets creates a sense of mastery and satisfaction—a great boost for those with Alzheimer’s.
Shine a Light: Alternative therapies using light have been found helpful in a variety of disorders, and now memory disorders are joining the list. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that bright lighting—even just brightened room lights during the day—can help improve mood and cognition in older people with memory disorders. UV therapy, which uses a special, full-spectrum lamp, was also found beneficial by a study at Wayne State University. For those with Alzheimer’s that struggle with sundowning (increased confusion in the evening), light therapy can be especially helpful.
Get Artsy: Creating and viewing art is so helpful for those with dementia, museums across the country, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, have established art therapy programs for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Dr. John Ziesel, of Artists for Alzheimer’s, says that art therapy brings out the best in those with memory loss, and can help them be “articulate” and “assured.”
Indulge a Little: Comfort is especially important for seniors with Alzheimer’s. Some memory care providers have found that a “comfort-centered approach” results in relaxed, happy residents who need less medication. Indulging in favorites, such as a nibble of chocolate, a favorite meal, or even a bedtime drink, can be a familiar way to share relaxation.
The Gift of Imagination: Memory impaired people can feel a distressing amount of pressure to remember. Storytelling and exercising the imagination can give those with Alzheimer’s an opportunity to share, socialize, and create without worrying about forgetting. There are many activities involving photograph and art prompts that aide in creating stories.
None of these therapies can reverse the course of Alzheimer’s or other related dementias, but they can make a big difference in quality of life for those with impaired memory. Together, the medical and caregiving community is seeking new ways to improve the lives of those with Alzheimer’s.
AlmaVia of Union City is proud to provide innovative, patient-centered memory care, and strives to meet the needs of residents, families, and staff. For more information about our programs, visit www.almaviaofunioncity.org.