Practicing relaxation techniques can be beneficial for dementia sufferers as well as for those who are providing care to them. In addition to reducing stress, relaxation techniques, when practiced regularly, can be quite beneficial in many areas of your life including helping to control blood pressure, strengthening the body’s immune system, diminishing pain and improving the body’s ability to manage glucose blood levels.
Coming to terms with memory loss can be overwhelming. Dementia sufferers often become agitated and panicked when they can’t remember someone, something or somewhere. As stress levels rise, they may experience anger or frustration. Relaxation techniques can be helpful to overcome these negative feelings, bringing peace back into their lives. Relaxation techniques, sometimes referred to as relaxation therapy, can help the person living with dementia feel calmer and more relaxed, making life easier for them and those around them.
Relaxation techniques abound; therefore, if one doesn’t work for you, there are many others you can try. Keep searching, beginning with those on this list, until you find those that work best for you and your situation.
Controlled Deep Breathing
Controlled deep breathing exercises are one of the most widely recommended relaxation techniques used to promote calmness for people with dementia. They are easy to do, and work wonders to overcome the feelings of anxiety and stress memory loss can cause. If you notice the person with dementia beginning to exhibit signs of panic, stress or anxiety, initiate deep breathing exercises to help them find more peace and calm.
Begin by encouraging them to sit comfortably with their palms resting on their abdomen. Have them breathe in deeply through their nose. Make sure they feel their chest and belly expand, this way ensuring they are breathing properly for the exercise. If they don’t feel their stomach expand, they are breathing too shallow. Instruct them to breathe in for a count of three and let the air out slowly for a count of five. Make sure they feel their hands move in and out with each breath helping them to fully immerse themselves in the exercise.
If you find it difficult to get them to take a breath that is deep enough, tell them to pretend they are celebrating their 100th birthday and need to take a breath deep enough to blow out all the candles.
Repeat this exercise for several minutes until they appear to be more relaxed. You can make this exercise a regular part of each day or do it whenever it’s needed to increase calmness, theirs and yours.
Share a Hug
A hug is a powerful thing. When we hug someone, oxytocin is released, making us feel better, and stress hormones are reduced. Researchers at Ohio State University found that hugging and physical touch become even more important as we age. As we get older, we become more fragile physically, and touch, especially hugs, can be increasingly important to good health. Hugs make us feel closer to others and decrease feelings of loneliness. According to Matt Hertenstein, a DePauw University psychologist, “Oxytocin … basically promotes feelings of devotion, trust and bonding.” So, the next time you want to help someone with dementia reduce their stress levels, consider giving them a hug.
Humans cannot survive without touch; therefore, massage can be a very powerful therapy for someone with dementia. Consider the effects of a hug and you’ll better understand just how powerful it can be.
Studies have shown that massage can be helpful in reducing the stress levels of someone dealing with dementia as it helps them to relax and feel more calm. Although you may not be able to have a full massage every day, even arm and hand or foot and leg massages can be extremely soothing.
You can create your own massage oils using a carrier oil such as almond oil and a few drops of a relaxing essential oil. Lavender, cedarwood, lime and clary sage essential oils have soothing and calming actions.
Aromatherapy can be used to reduce stress, decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase contentment. Best of all, it has few, if any, known side effects. Lavender has long been used to promote sleep in both infants and adults. Other essential oils have also shown to elevate mood or produce calm including rosemary, peppermint, ylang-ylang and lemon.
Aromatherapy can be used passively and can be easily combined with other stress relieving activities for increased stress relief. Aromatherapy can be used to fill a whole room with a stress-reducing scent with little to no effort and can be used continuously with diffusers.
Various methods can be used to release the scents into the air including candles and diffusers. It can be applied to the body through body products such as lotions and massage oils, allowing the scent to follow them around. You can even dab a few drops of skin-safe essential oil on the wrist or neck, just as you would perfume, and enjoy the aroma for hours. A few drops added to a warm bath can double the relaxation benefits. Or add them to a warm damp washcloth before or while showering.
Interaction with animals is known to reduce stress, boost mood and encourage calmness. Animals are non-judgmental, and a person does not have to worry about finding the right words to communicate with them making them especially good for people with dementia. Just being around an animal or petting them decreases blood pressure, a sure sign stress is being reduced. Although dogs and cats are ideal because they interact with humans, even fish tanks can be beneficial in the battle against stress.
Gull Creek Memory Care
At Gull Creek, we understand the needs of those dealing with dementia. Our intimate memory care community offers a safe and supportive environment for individuals with various degrees of Alzheimer’s and dementia-related illnesses. Our carefully trained staff caters to each individual’s needs, providing residents with opportunities to thrive and have meaningful interactions and relationships. Contact us today to learn more.