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11 Most Off-beat Alzheimer’s Therapies

11 Most Off-beat Alzheimer’s Therapies

by MEGAN JONES
Managing Editor

Dolls? Horses? Connect Four?

Believe it or not, these things can act as therapies for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Check out the quirky list below.

See what other seemingly strange things can help your loved ones.

1) Aroma Therapy
Several essential oils—like Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Lemon Balm and Bergamot—have been shown to ease anxiety and sleep problems, as well as improve cognitive function and memory. Oils can be used in massages and baths, or through misting and direct inhalation, among other things. Therapy never smelled so good.

2) Puppeteering

Usually paired with music, puppet shows help to stimulate memories, build confidence, and improve social connections between residents and staff at long-term care facilities. Even people in the later stages Alzheimer’s and dementia benefit. Those who have become non-verbal react positively to puppet shows, often showing their engagement with the visual stimulus through their smiles.

3) Dog Therapypuuuup

Everyone loves puppies. Dogs provide stimulation for people with Alzheimer’s, helping to hold their attention and keep them connected to reality. Specially trained canines can also calm people who get agitated easily, and can be trained to know when to lead them away from stressful situation. Plus, dogs are great mood boosters. Seriously. Look at any puppy and try not to smile.

4) Laughing Yoga

Literally a group of people sitting in a room, laughing—it looks weird, but it works. Led by a facilitator, group members are encouraged to “fake it ’til they make it,” forcing laughter until it becomes genuine. Bouts of laughter are interspersed with yogic breathing. The practice is particularly good for those with Alzheimer’s because it allows people to laugh without necessarily having to understand a joke. In clinical studies, laughter has been shown to elevate mood an reduce anxiety.

Connect Four: The vertical 4-in-a-row checkers game Connect Four: Vertical checkers

5) Connect Four 

No clinical studies have been done to specifically measure the benefits of Connect Four. But at George Brown College’s School of Health and Wellness in Toronto, Ont., students who are completing co-op placements in long-term care facilities use Connect Four to bond with residents. The large gamepieces and straightforward instructions are well-suited to those with dementia. Playing the game helps them to strengthen their motor skills, and acts as an easy, non-intimidating way to interact socially.

6) Horse Therapy
A study conducted by the Ohio State University, an equine therapy center and an adult daycare center found that with supervision, people with Alzheimer’s could safely groom, feed and walk horses. These activities had therapeutic benefits: the experience boosted participants’ moods, and made them less likely to resit care or become agitated later in the day.


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Megan Jones

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