Pet therapy

Pet therapy series

The latest recommendations issued by the Alzheimer’s Association for dementia care are in: using individually-based, non-medication treatment options are best to manage behavioral issues associated with dementia. When behaviors change in an individual and a person exhibits sundowning, agitation, aggression, and wandering, the goal is to steer away from available medications aimed at modulating these behaviors, such as anti-psychotics, which can result in serious health complications and even death in those with dementia.

Dr. Keith Fargo of the Alzheimer’s Association clarifies that natural, therapeutic alternatives can bring about positive results without risk of harm. Some suggestions to explore include:

Pet therapy: The calming effects of animals are well known, and studies have shown both an increase in socialization and a decrease in disruptive behaviors when either live or robotic pets were introduced to dementia patients.

Massage: For those who are comfortable with touch, massage may provide at least short-term comfort, a reduced sense of social isolation, and perhaps even an increase in the body’s production of oxytocin.

Bathing: Bathing can be a time of distress for those with Alzheimer’s disease, but research has shown positive results when simple modifications are made, such as adding calming music, lowered lighting, and more of a spa-like feel to the environment.

Light therapy: In some seniors who experience a disrupted sleep cycle, such as sundowning, exposure to natural light or a particular type of bright, artificial light that mimics it, can be helpful. However, in other seniors, it may exacerbate agitation.

Aromatherapy: Whether the benefits stem from the aromas themselves, or from the soothing effect of the application of scented lotions onto the person’s hands, aromatherapy has shown benefit in reducing aggression and agitation in some seniors.

It’s important to note that while one type of treatment may be helpful for one person with Alzheimer’s disease, it could actually have the exact opposite effect on another. Utilizing a person-centered approach will help determine the most effective treatment options to try.

For skilled, personalized dementia care in Atlanta, always delivered with compassion and respect, contact the dementia care team at Atlanta Home Care Partners. Our caregivers receive specialized training in a unique approach to managing the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, restoring a sense of calm to the senior and providing much-needed respite for family caregivers. Call us at 404.228.0103 or contact us online for additional helpful resources specific to Alzheimer’s disease, or to schedule a free in-home consultation to learn more about our in-home care solutions.