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January 10, 2015
I am a Kinesiotherapist and a Massage Therapist working as a sole practitioner in a home based geriatric practice. My clients are referred to me for balance and mobility training; the most common diagnosis I treat is Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia, defined as a gradual onset, progressive, degenerative disease that attacks the brain and results in impaired memory, thinking and behavior, reducing the ability to perform routine activities. As a Kinesiotherapist, I am brought in to help slow the degeneration and help maintain physical function.
Alzheimer’s disease also can be characterized by anger, agitation, confusion and aggressive behavior. It is very difficult to calm an agitated patient primarily because the cause for the agitation is forgotten, what the patient is left with is an “unattached” emotion. Massage Therapy is the most valuable tool I have in my cadre of treatment options. Massage often helps calm and ground an agitated client. The nurturing touch combined with the focused, one on one attention, is incredibly successful in stress reduction and it is soothing. Massage Therapy also aids in relieving muscle tension, and the pain associated with Osteo arthritis and muscular imbalance.
I was recently hired to work with a 84 y/o female diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The order was for balance and mobility training. The client was not willing to cooperate with therapy; simply would not entertain it. When I realized I was losing the therapy battle, I asked her if she was having any pain. She complained of lower back pain and swelling in her legs. I immediately began to massage (superficial, Swedish) and gently stretch her legs. She allowed me touch her hands and then eventually her lower back. After 30 minutes of massage, I was able to get her to take a walk with me and do an functional evaluation.
It has been several weeks and she continues to be resistant to the exercise intervention. However, I start and end every session with massage and incorporate it in between exercises. She is much less resistant to our sessions, she is gaining the benefit to exercise (unknowingly) and I leave her with a calm feeling that sticks with her a pleasant “unattached” emotion.