Alternative therapy for Alzheimer’s disease is sometimes known as complimentary therapy. For our purposes, the term non-pharmacological therapy for Alzheimer’s is probably more descriptive. We think of alternative therapy for Alzheimer’s as any effective treatment that doesn’t involve drugs or medication, or some surgical intervention or other medical procedure. That covers a lot of ground; indeed it can (and does) include anything from diet to aromatherapy and light therapy. Many of the alternative methods covered below have not been subjected to rigorous clinical testing, the way pharmaceutical companies are required to test their drugs. On the other hand, our suggested alternatives do not have the potential dangerous and deadly side effects that prescription drugs often do.
The alternative therapies have varying amounts of evidence that they do, in fact, provide a degree of relief for symptoms of dementia. Many of the treatments do have fairly extensive clinical support to back up those claims. We will discuss the claims and the support for each type of treatment separately. Follow the links in the categories below to get more detailed information of the various alternative therapies for Alzheimer’s.
The Aromatherapy Tangle is a unique way to administer aromatherapy. It adds a tactile stimulation and is a fidget toy as well. Available in the store.
Several studies have found compelling evidence that certain aromatherapy oils have a positive effect on the mood, behavior, and even on the cognitive functioning of people with dementia. Aromatherapy is the use of volatile plant oils to improve psychological and physical health and prevent disease, and to affect mood. These “essential oils” are distilled from different parts of plants and contain the essence of the plant.
Essential plant oils are safe if a few, simple precautions are followed. If you have a question or a concern about the proper or safe use of any aromatherapy product, please contact us. Or ask a professional aromatherapist. Read more about aromatherapy as an alternative therapy for Alzheimer’s disease.
Art therapy is quickly becoming one of the most thoroughly documented alternative therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. Art therapists and activity professionals have long known that for people with Alzheimer’s, creating art as well as enjoying art opens up avenues of cognition and communication that were often thought to be lost forever.
More and more, in cities all over the world, art museums are creating tours for people with dementia and their caregivers. For anyone for whom attending such a tour is impractical, there are many ways that art can be brought to them. Painting and other arts and crafts are becoming a staple of caregivers, both professional and family. True art therapy requires a trained therapist, but with just a little instruction, you can art creation can be a very meaningful activity for the person or people in your care.
“I gave my dear Mother one of the dolls from “doll therapy” just a few months before we had to put her into full time care. The doll is the love of her life. It is the only thing she feels safe and comfort from and with. It is the only thing that she is able to talk to freely and love and nurture. She believes she is the doll’s grandmother and that the doll is real. She carries it everywhere with her and it’s beautiful to see that even though she is in the penultimate stage of vascular dementia, she is still able to display the loving and nurturing part of her nature that we all had the joy of receiving over her many years. Thank you.” ~ Kate (Sydney, NSW, Australia)
The above quotation is a note of thanks from a friend in Australia who found that her mother was greatly comforted by the simple act of caring for a doll. Most of the evidence supporting doll therapy as an effective alternative therapy for Alzheimer’s disease is anecdotal, like Kate’s testimony, but there is quite a lot of it. As is often the case, so much anecdotal evidence usually gets the pro’s interested. A growing body of medical and scientific work supports what so many social workers, nurses, and caregivers have known for a long time; doll therapy works as a way to treat many of the behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
You will find a large selection of therapy dolls in our store. We have one line that is very realistic. Our other line is so realistic you will have to look two or even three times, and touch the face to convince yourself that what you are holding is not a live baby. These dolls are each custom made, and because of this are quite expensive, but I am constantly surprised by how many we sell. And I am not kidding about the realism. The person who makes these for us, while visiting a care community, gently placed one of the dolls in the arms of the nurse she was talking with. Several minutes later, after talking and swaying, she touched the baby’s face and almost shrieked, “It’s a doll!”
Music is therapy for everyone, not just people who have Alzheimer’s disease. Like art therapy, music therapy requires a trained practitioner to truly be music therapy. On the other hand, simply listening to music has a way of lifting our spirits, improving or mood, and making our day a little brighter; or a lot. And music can be used in so many ways. Familiar music is a great tool for reminiscence therapy. Background music creates an atmosphere that can be relaxing, energetic, meditative, and even stimulate creative thought. Music is a perfect accompaniment to exercise; and don’t even get me started on the benefits of dance.
According to author Brian Falkner, “We are our memories.” Click the picture to explore reminiscing aids.
Many people with progressive memory disorders, especially Alzheimer’s disease, are much more comfortable talking about memories of long ago than about more recent happenings and experiences. Because the area of the brain that stores memories long term is affected later in the disease’s progression than the area that forms new memories, the affected person will remember more about her life when she was 40 years younger than she knows about what has happened earlier in the week or at breakfast this morning. Old pictures provide a perfect vehicle for reminiscing. Bring out those old photo albums. Find pictures that are characteristic of the times and places she is likely to remember most fondly. Add some music that she listened to when she was young. Anything that provides fond memories can be a part of reminiscence therapy. More about reminiscence therapy…
There is not a lot published about the benefits therapy animals have for people with dementia including Alzheimer’s. We just know it works. It is probably not as effective as, for example, art therapy or doll therapy, at least not across the board. On the other hand, some people may get more out of pet therapy than some of the other powerful alternative therapies. Many care communities we visit “employ” a therapy animal, just to hang around and spread its healing energy.