Some of the most promising therapies for dementia have little to do with medicine, and everything to do with enhancing everyday living. These include therapies involving pets, music, art, and even light and aroma. Each can, in its own way, improve the quality of life for a person experiencing some degree of memory loss. There’s even limited evidence that some may be helping to reverse memory loss, at least to a small degree.
At The Kensington White Plains, we employ these therapies whenever appropriate. One or more can have a noticeably positive effect on people suffering from memory loss.
Research has determined that pets are good for people in all age groups, and in nearly every circumstance. This is also true for those who are experiencing memory loss. In addition to health benefits, such as lowering your heart rate and blood pressure, and boosting serotonin levels, pets can also have emotional benefits.
Pets offer the advantage of unconditional love. It doesn’t matter what a person’s health status is, a dog or cat can still build emotional bonds. A pet can also help a person suffering from memory loss to focus on an external life force – the pet. It’s even possible that the presence of a pet, even on a temporary basis, can stir memories from the past, including the memory of another pet.
Here at The Kensington we have a living pet living in our community, Curry the Cat, plus robotic animals.
Music therapy has proven to be one of the most effective ways to help people suffering from memory loss. It can be accomplished in two ways, by listening to music, and also by participating in it. In the case of the latter, there are benefits to both singing in a group or playing an instrument.
Researchers found that music therapy helps a person to emerge from isolation, at least on a temporary basis. It also produces the emotional benefit of creating positive mood changes. It can cause a person with memory loss to exhibit interest in what’s happening in their immediate surroundings, in a way that other therapies prove ineffective. And of course, music therapy also encourages participation with others.
But as a direct benefit, music has also been found to enhance memory recall. It engages areas of the brain that are needed to maintain concentration, organize incoming information, and update events in a person’s memory. It also enhances the ability to maintain continuous movement and vocalization, two activities that are frequently degraded in the memory loss process.
We offer music therapy at The Kensington including the following formal Programs Music and Memory Program and Eversound, plus the Music Conservatory of Westchester provides instructors who engage our residents in mini-music therapy activities. These programs have demonstrated improvement in verbal skills and mobility, as well as reducing combativeness.
Light therapy is a newcomer to dementia patient treatment regimens. It is still largely in the research phase, but it’s showing promise nonetheless. It involves using flashing lights at certain levels of brightness and speed. This practice has been found to help more brain neurons fire together at gamma frequencies. Light therapy increases gamma power in the brain, and reduces beta amyloid plaques – thought to be a factor in Alzheimer’s – by more than 50%.
It’s also believed that light therapy helps patients better differentiate between day and night, improving sleeping patterns. There is also evidence that it improves emotional states.
Aromatherapy makes use of essential oils. The oils can be used either to create certain desired aromas, or even through contact with the skin, where they can be absorbed by the body. Various types of dementia can diminish a person’s sense of smell. It’s possible that by introducing certain scents a positive outcome can result.
For example, lavender and lemon balm have been found to reduce anxiety and agitation. Peppermint has been found to stimulate appetite, while bergamot has a calming effect, and may help with sleep. Meanwhile, Rosemary is believed to improve memory and cognition. Even if a person’s sense of smell is not entirely capable of recognizing these scents, it’s possible for them to receive the benefits as a result of contact with the skin.
Art therapy is proving to be one of the most effective for people suffering from memory loss, particularly those with mild to moderate memory loss. It helps to enhance the ability of a person with dementia to maintain focus. When they begin creating art, they enter a creative dimension that requires specific concentration. It can even help them to develop talents and thought processes that did not previously exist.
There are numerous benefits that come from art therapy. If it’s done in a group, it can foster relationships centered on the artwork being created. It can also reduce the anxiety that often comes with memory loss, and help a person to develop a greater sense of control over their circumstances.
Then there’s also the fact that art therapy enables a person with memory loss to be able express themselves creatively. This can be important for a person who has reduced capacity to communicate verbally, or through other means.
At The Kensington, we employ these therapies with our residents who are experiencing memory loss, to one degree or another. As well, we stay up-to-date with the research surrounding these therapies, since new information is becoming available all the time.
If you have a loved one who is experiencing dementia, please arrange to discuss any of these therapies with our staff. We have good experience with them, particularly in combination, and we’re ready to help you or your loved one in any way that we can.
The Kensington is an enhanced Assisted Living and Memory Care residence located in the heart of White Plains, N.Y. Here, residents are regarded as members of our own family, so hugs, laughs, companionship and patient support are routine parts of every day. We help our residents feel loved and secure by delivering heartfelt excellence in Assisted Living and Memory Care services in a warm, beautiful environment that offers comfortable elegance and is staffed by loving professionals.
We believe the comfort of familiarity is precious, so our enhanced program enables us to offer care beyond what the traditional assisted living community can deliver. We offer a full spectrum of clinical support, rehabilitation, wellness and social engagement activities as well as end-of-life care. No resident needs to move out if their healthcare needs ever change.
For those with memory loss, The Kensington offers levels of care in specially designed neighborhoods. Connections is for residents in the early-to-middle stages of memory loss. Haven is for residents in the middle-to-late stages. We understand that memory loss is a family affair, so our multifaceted program is geared to support not only our residents but also those who love them.
Click to contact us for further information or call us directly at 914-390-0080.