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Easing Dementia Symptoms With Massage

Posted Jan 11 2011 12:00am

Touch is so vital to all of us but often missing in our daily interactions, especially in those with dementia. Professional massage therapy may not be an option but as dementia caregivers, you can learn a simple hand massage that can help soothe your loved one with dementia.

Even a five minute hand massage has many benefits for the person with dementia including working out minor aches while triggering a relaxation response that results in feelings of calmness.  You as a dementia caregiver do get some benefits as well by doing a quick hand massage:  you feel that you are making a real connection on a very basic level and seeing that your presence makes a difference.

Before you embark on a hand massage, keep in mind these safety precautions.  Be cautious of massage with skin that is very fragile or where there are openings in the skin.  Obviously swollen or inflamed hands should not receive massage.  And you need to use good hand hygiene of washing before and after the massage to be sure that you don't spread germs.

So here is the simple procedure for a hand massage:

  1. Gather your materials in advance:  hypoallergenic hand lotion, warm washcloth, towel and possibly soft music
  2. Sit facing each other in a comfortable position
  3. Smile at the person and gently hand the hands of the person with dementia to create a connection and help the person become focused to the activity.
  4. Apply a small amount of the lotion to one hand.  Gently squeeze each finger from the base to the fingertips.  Use circular motions to go up and down each finger
  5. With the palm up, make tiny slow circular motions in the center of the hand
  6. Repeat with the other hand
  7. Smile, make eye contact at the end of the massage while gently holding both their hands in yours and thanking the person
  8. Be sure to remove any excess lotion with the warm washcloth or towel

Any success stories with massage?  Please share as this seems like an overly simplistic method but it yields great results!

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