Can massage benefit people with dementia?

According to the Alzheimer's Society, alternative and complementary medicine has been shown to help reduce some of the conditions that people with dementia often experience, like back pain, anxiety and depression. While not enough research has been done to definitively say whether alternative treatments can help improve the cognitive decline associated with dementia, there are many ways that alternative treatments can improve the lives of people with the illness.

Several areas of alternative and complementary medicine have been shown to be helpful for people with dementia, including herbal remedies, acupuncture, aromatherapy and bright light therapy. But one of the most easily administered and most readily accepted treatments is massage.

The Alzheimer's Society says that massage involves hands-on manipulation of the body's soft tissue by an experienced practitioner. There are many types of massage that may be preferable to different people. According to the source, there is some evidence that massage can help manage symptoms associated with dementia, such as anxiety, agitation and depression, but further research is required.

In the meantime, massage can be beneficial for people living with dementia in care homes. Here are some of the ways massage can help.


Improved mood

Dementia is a stressful disease for everyone affected by it. As a result, many people with dementia become depressed and anxious, which can take a large toll on the quality of their daily lives. Massage can help improve their mental state by promoting the release of dopamine and oxytocin, says the Federation of Holistic Therapists. These two hormones are known to improve mood and induce feelings of love and a sense of well-being.


Regular socialisation

Some people with dementia become withdrawn and don't interact with others on a regular basis. Massage therapists who visit regularly may be some of the only visitors who touch people with dementia in a caring, therapeutic way. People with dementia often respond positively to therapeutic touch, as it gives them an opportunity to experience "affection." Relief from pain and discomfort Regular massage can help relieve pain and discomfort that people are feeling, no matter what it stems from. Old age often comes with its fair share of aches and pains, so even if no other conditions are present, massage can help alleviate this general discomfort and even increase mobility by improving circulation, according to The Holistic Directory.


Improved sense of place

The Federation of Holistic Therapists says that massage can help people improve or retain proprioception, which is the perception of the location, movement and posture of the body in relation to physical space. This can help people with dementia retain independence for longer, engage in everyday activities and improve their overall quality of life.


At Sunrise Senior Living, our care homes feature dementia neighbourhoods designed specifically to meet the needs of residents living with dementia. For more information or to find a location near you, please select Contact us at the top of this page.