Dementia & Sleep: How Gentle Hand Massage Makes a Difference for People With Memory Disorders by Susan Swetnam
Are you caring for a loved one with dementia? If so, you'll know that getting to sleep at night and staying asleep is often a challenge for those with memory disorders. Fortunately, dementia studies have shown that something as simple as a short hand massage can significantly calm anxiety and help people with dementia fall asleep and stay asleep more easily. As a massage therapist who works with elderly people, here are my recommendations for a simple hand massage you can do before bed:
- Apply lotion and gently squeeze your loved one's hand.
- Turn the hand palm up, stabilizing it in your non-working hand, and make little circles with your fingertips, working slowly around the palm clockwise. You want the pressure to be firm enough to be felt and not tickle, but not too hard.
- Turn the hand over and, again stabilizing it in your non-working hand, stroke slowly up and down between the little bones running the long way on the back of the hand, from wrist to the base of the finger.
- Gently squeeze each finger, enveloping it in your hand.
Every phase of this should be slow and loving and intentional. Singing or speaking softly to your loved one during the massage will make it even better, or you can put on some music he or she likes. Each finger should take about five minutes.
Anybody can do this, and if you repeat it each night it can become a relaxing, bonding ritual for both of you!
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