The Benefits of Geriatric Massage

Who doesn’t love a massage? It’s a way to step out of the world-as-we-know-it, free the mind of its ceaseless chatter, and enjoy the soothing and pleasurable feeling of having your tension erased from your physical body. However, massage is not just about the general satisfaction of physical pleasure, studies have shown that there are significant medical and health benefits to having a massage on a regular basis. This is especially true for the senior population.

Geriatric massage is a special niche, designed to provide a relaxing therapeutic treatment that has residual health benefits specifically targeting the physical and emotional ailments that can plague seniors.

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What is geriatric massage?

The principles of geriatric massage – laying down and having a trained masseuse use lotion or oils to manipulate the muscles, connective tissues, and even the skeleton itself – are the same as traditional massage therapy. However, geriatric massage usually involves a lighter touch, to be sensitive to the thin skin and physical sensitivities that often increase with age.

If the client is wheelchair bound, or finds the massage chair uncomfortable, a geriatric massage can be performed while the patient is seated. Geriatric massage often spends a longer time on the hands and feet, in order to increase circulation, but can be adapted to meet the specific needs of the client. This may also include reflexology techniques, which stimulates specific pressure points on the hands and feet that coordinate to specific parts of the body. Reflexology has also been shown to provide natural pain relief.

What are some of the benefits of geriatric massage?

Similar to Yoga and other healing practices that focus on clearing the mind, relaxing the body, and gentle motion, massage has been shown to alleviate depression, improve circulation, and reduce pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints. Also, it can just plain feel good to be touched. Consider that many seniors, especially those whose spouses have died or whose loved ones live far away are without the regular comfort of human touch, hugs, or kisses that most of us enjoy on a semi-daily basis.

Massage enhances emotional well-being. At the bio-chemical level, massage stimulates the release of multiple “feel good” hormones, such as adrenaline and oxytocin. This is one of the reasons many people feel a sense of relaxed euphoria for a day or two following their massage. These chemicals help to relieve anxiety and depression. In fact, massage has been shown to help bereaved relatives cope with their grief

Improved circulation. This is a biggie. Our heart pumps blood for a reason – to feed our bodies cells with much needed oxygen, water, and nutrients. It is also required to eliminate the CO2 and toxins out of our cells and out of the body. When the circulatory system is ailing, the rest of the body is too. Massage can be especially helpful for seniors who have diabetes, certain heart conditions, or whose mobility limitations prevent them from being able to move comfortably or safely; all of these conditions contribute to poor circulation, which can snowball into other undesirable side effects.

Reduced pain and stiffness. It’s hard to find a senior citizen that doesn’t suffer from some amount of pain or stiffness. The same chemicals mentioned above, adrenaline, oxytocin and other “feel good” hormones also help to combat pain. As your lymph system is stimulated, inflammation will begin to decrease, which helps the joints move more comfortably.

So go ahead, treat yourself to a geriatric massage. You might even find it’s partially or fully covered by your healthcare insurance.

Everything You Need to Know About Sundowner’s Syndrome

everything-you-need-to-know-about-sundowners-syndromeSundowner’s Syndrome, also called Sundowning, is a clinical phenomena that occurs in approximately 20% of senior citizens with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It is a state of agitation or confusion that begins as the sun sets. For many patients, this upsetting state of mind will last through the night. While it is obviously disturbing for the person experiencing Sundowning, it can be equally or more disturbing for caregivers who have to watch a person they love in distress, and who become exhausted from lack of sleep and constant worry.

Unfortunately medical science does not know exactly what causes it. It is thought that the cognitive physiological changes that cause Alzheimer’s and dementia may also damage the area of the brain that controls our circadian rhythm – the internal clock each of us has that maintains a certain rhythm to our waking and sleeping cycles.

What are the symptoms of Sundowner’s Syndrome?

As the sun begins to set adults affected by Sundowning may become:

  • agitated
  • forgetful
  • confused
  • anxious
  • restless

As a result, they will have difficulty sleeping, which can further exacerbate their Alzheimer’s or dementia symptoms during daytime hours. It can also cause them to wander, yell, become delirious, angry or combative.

There are also factors that seem to increase Sundowner’s symptoms. If a person is already tired or fatigued they can experience more dramatic Sundowning. Low-lighting, a disruptive or noisy sleeping environment, and poor nourishment are also factors. It has also been linked to certain medications, severe constipation, or a disruption in daily sleeping and waking patterns.

Is there a way to avoid or mitigate Sundowning Symptoms?

Because the exact cause of Sundowning has yet to be known, there isn’t a specific fix. However, there are things that can help to prevent it and/or ease the symptoms.

Adequate Lighting. Nighttime lighting is already important in senior housing as it improves sight for seniors with poor vision, and prevents trip and fall accidents. However, lighting is even more important for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Shadows and dark places can intensify their agitation and anxiety. The more you can prevent shadowing, the more it will help the senior feel secure.

A Healthy Diet. As mentioned above, malnutrition and constipation seem to trigger more Sundowner’s Symptoms. Make sure your senior loved one is eating a well-balanced diet to remain nourished. A high-fiber diet and adequate hydration will help as well. Have dinner early and then offer a light snack before bedtime. Limit caffeine and other stimulant intake during the afternoon and evening hours.

Be Active. Keep your senior busy and active during daylight hours so they begin to feel tired at night. A sedentary lifestyle causes sleep troubles at any age, but seniors and those with Alzheimer’s or dementia are especially prone. Daytime exercise, hobbies and mental stimulation will help to trigger a healthy sleep response.

Familiarity. Use night lights in the bathroom and bedroom at night so they can orient themselves when they wake up. If they are in the hospital or away from home, bring pictures as well as favorite and familiar objects that will lend a sense of security to a new location.

Melatonin. Ask the senior’s healthcare provider about melatonin supplements. Recent studies have shown low doses of melatonin can inhibit the development of Sundowner’s Syndrome, decrease its symptoms, and help patients sleep. In turn, this has seemed to slow down their general cognitive decline.

If your loved one is experiencing Sundowner’s Syndrome, speak to a healthcare professional immediately so you can begin to find what works for your client or loved one.

How to Help a Client or Loved One Avoid the Holiday Blues

While television ads and societal cues tell us the holidays are full of cheer, the reality is that depression rates increase this time of year. Senior citizens are especially prone to holiday blues. Whether your loved one lives alone, or in a senior living community, this season presents several depression triggers, ranging from the biological to psychological.

Decreased sunlight and shorter daylight hours can have a naturally depressive effect on the body. Combined with cabin fever, loneliness, and memories of days gone by, seniors can feel they are the only cheerless humans in a sea of holiday-crazed happy people.

how-to-help-a-client-or-loved-one-avoid-the-holiday-blues

The following tips can help prevent your senior client or loved one from succumbing to the holiday blues.

  1. Light therapy. The first step is to battle the biological triggers for depression that occur around the season and time changes. Our bodies can become depressed when deprived of natural sunlight. This condition has been given a name, Seasonal Affective Disorder, with an appropriate acronym – SAD. Light therapy has been proven to help combat SAD by triggering the same biochemical response caused by natural sunlight. A small light therapy box can sit on the table during breakfast, or while reading the paper. Just 15 to 30 minutes a day is usually sufficient. Talk to the senior’s healthcare provider before starting treatment.
  2. Diet and exercise. Make sure your senior client or loved one is eating well and getting enough exercise. If their exercise routine used to involve daily walks outside, start looking for indoor alternatives. Senior living communities usually offer exercise classes, dance classes, or indoor aquatic exercises. Otherwise, speak with your local senior center to inquire about other options.
  3. Ask and listen. The holidays can bring a mix of feelings for all of us. Many seniors hide their negative feelings because they don’t want to distress their family and friends. If you feel comfortable, ask the senior to share their feelings, sad or otherwise. Let them know you feel holiday nostalgia as well. Then patiently listen. The more you are willing to listen and support their feelings, the more comfortable they will feel opening up.
  4. Bring out the albums. Another way to help seniors process their feelings is to let them tell stories triggered by photos. Take an afternoon or evening to sit down and pour over old photo albums. It’s a wonderful opportunity to spend time outside of the holiday rush and learn more about your clients or relatives interesting lives. We all have stories to tell, and allowing seniors to share theirs can help them process sad or lonely feelings, while they are being kept in good company!
  5. Call more frequently. There is a good chance that you live far away from your aging relatives, in which case their loneliness may be more poignant. Make an effort to call more frequently, send card or flowers, or send your holiday gifts in small batches over the course of a few weeks. This can help them to feel more connected and cherished.
  6. Volunteer. We often think of volunteering for senior citizens. However, able-bodied senior citizens make wonderful volunteers in their own right. They have time on their hands, and there are plenty of community outlets that need help this time of year. Contact organizations like Senior Corps, homeless shelters, or local food banks where you and your senior loved one can lend a helping hand.

These tips can help seniors to remain in better spirits before, during, and after the holidays, allowing them to find the peace and joy this season is all about.

Control Stress with 4 Easy Tips

Control StressAn ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Read Mayo Clinic oncologist Edward T. Creagan, M.D’s thoughts on how to keep your quality of life up with these simple tips.

One of my colleagues and I offer a public-speaking program for healthcare providers. Each participant has to give a three-minute presentation, which is videotaped and then critiqued. At one of these sessions, a student shared his recipe for survival with the group: 

  • Nutrition. An astonishing 80 percent of your quality of life is related, at least in part, to what you eat.
  • Sleep. Absolutely crucial for its restorative property. When you sleep, you heal.
  • Exercise. Minimum of 30 minutes a day of activity that increases your heart rate, such as walking or using a stair stepper.
  • CPR. C stands for caring for oneself. P stands for priorities. And R stands for relationships. All three are critical to your survival.

See the original article on the Mayo clinic website