There are several different types of therapies that are being used to try to help people who have Alzheimer's disease or dementia. These therapies focus on helping to make communication, activities of daily life, and emotional management easier for the individuals who have these diseases as well as for their caregivers and their loved ones. Here are just a few of the different types of therapies that currently exist.
1. Animal Therapy
Also called pet therapy, animal therapy is when trained dogs, cats, and sometimes other animals are used as companions for people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia. Many people who have diseases that cause them to be cognitively impaired see animals as friendly and non-threatening. Often times, people who suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia are more likely to interact with animals than with other people.
Benefits of Animal Therapy:
- Reduces agitation and increases pleasure
- Increases physical activity
- Increases appetite
- Lowers blood pressure
2. Art Therapy
With art therapy, people are encouraged to express themselves through different types of artistic media. Art stimulates the brains of individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, both cognitively and emotionally. Art therapy is being used as a way of helping Alzheimer’s and dementia patients communicate their emotions and thoughts, which in turn, helps to calm them and make them feel more connected to others. It is also used as a way to help individuals focus so that they can improve their attention and concentration skills. Through creating art, individuals are able to express themselves nonverbally.
Benefits of Art Therapy:
- Decreases levels of anxiety, agitation, and anger
- Provides a way of expressing positive emotions
- Supplies social recognition in relation to other people
- Gives validation of one’s own personal experience
- Improves general mood and overall well-being
3. Light Therapy
Light therapy involves using bright lights that are placed in the rooms of memory care residents and in common areas where groups meet. Residents are exposed to these bright lights for about one hour every day. One group found that this type of light therapy helps people with dementia to sleep better through the night. It seems to reduce feelings of restlessness and agitation in individuals, and therefore evens out their sleep cycles.
Benefits of Light Therapy:
- Improves sleep cycles and sleep patterns
- Lowers the need for anxiety- and/or depression-managing medications
- Lowers the display of stress behaviors, like pacing and shouting
- Improves overall well-being
4. Music Therapy
Musical understanding and a love of music are often two of the last abilities that people with Alzheimer’s or dementia still have, which is why music therapy is so important. How we respond to rhythms and our ability to understand them is found in the motor center of the brain, so our response to music does not require a lot of mental processing, the way that other activities do, like speaking or working through a puzzle. Music is a great way to communicate with people in the late stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Benefits of Music Therapy:
- Improves memory recall
- Encourages positive changes in moods and in emotional states
- Creates a sense of control over life
- Promotes interest in once-loved hobbies
- Encourages vocal fluency and speech
- Helps manage pain without the use of medications
- Provides the opportunity to interact socially with others
- Improves overall mental and physical well-being
5. Validation Therapy
Validation therapy encourages caregivers and loved ones of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to focus on the “here and now” and to try not to ask themselves why their loved one is acting a certain way. Validation therapy wants cognitive diseases to be accepted through empathy. It is an attempt to draw caregivers and loved ones away from ignoring or stopping irrational and illogical behaviors and offers alternative responses through listening and paying attention. Instead of trying to bring back the person loved ones once knew, validation therapy encourages them to focus on the positives that exist currently in reality.
Benefits of Validation Therapy:
- Increases positive physical and social responses toward others, including sense of humor
- Increases communication, both verbal and nonverbal
- Increases awareness of reality
- Decreases negative behaviors, like crying, pacing, pounding, and expressions of anger
- Decreases need for physical restraints
- Improves sense of self-worth