Tuesday, October 10, 2017


The Human Touch is a powerful thing. Often a touch can be something as simple as placing a comforting hand on a shoulder or another’s hand or, a more powerful touch found in a hug or gentle embrace. For someone with dementia, this is huge.  

The number 1 question I get from caregivers is “What can I do to dispel agitation and anxiety.” While everyone responds differently, you may need to try several things before finding that particular therapy that works best for your charge. There are several basic things I will suggest doing that may well be your key to preventing episodes from occurring but it is important to try first to discover the source of his or her trigger. Consider this exercise much like child-proofing a home.

Anxiety and agitation may be caused by a number of different medical conditions, medication interactions or by any circumstances that worsen the person's ability to think. Ultimately, the person with dementia is biologically experiencing a profound loss of their ability to negotiate new information and stimulus. It is a direct result of the disease.

Situations that may lead to agitation include:
  • Moving to a new residence or nursing home
  • Changes in environment, such as travel, hospitalization or the presence of houseguests
  • Changes in caregiver arrangements
  • Misperceived threats
  • Fear and fatigue resulting from trying to make sense out of a confusing world

There are 5 basic things you will want to do to prevent or reduce agitation:
  • Create a calm environment.
    Remove stressors. This may involve moving the person to a safer or quieter place,      or offering a security object, rest or privacy. Try soothing rituals and limiting caffeine use.
  • Avoid environmental triggers.
    Noise, glare and background distraction (such as having the television on) can act as triggers.
  • Monitor personal comfort.
    Check for pain, hunger, thirst, constipation, full bladder, fatigue, infections and skin irritation. Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature. Be sensitive to fears, misperceived threats and frustration with expressing what is wanted.
  • Simplify tasks and routines.
  • Provide an opportunity for exercise.
    Go for a walk. Garden together. Put on music and dance or paint or draw.

NOTED SUGGESTION: I know this is off the subject of Touch and Massage therapy but creating the calming environment is first and foremost. Research has shown that a combination of Rosemary and Lavender Essential Oils in a diffuser reduces or eliminates anxiety. Rosemary has been shown to increase cognition while Lavender acts as a calming and soothing agent. Regular daily diffusing helps to create and maintain a calming environment.

Once you have done all you can to ensure creating a calming environment and you are confident there isn’t any medical issue needing your attention yet anxiousness or agitation still persists, Touch Therapy and the use of specific Essential Oils will generally provide immediate relief.
Touch Therapy is our primary focus in this blog today. Touch Therapy is easily learned and incorporated into a daily routine while Massage Therapy should only be performed by a licensed practitioner with knowledge and experience working with dementia’s and the aged. Above all else, Touch Therapy and Massage Therapy present SIDE – EFFECT FREE alternatives to everyone.

How do Touch Therapy and Massage Therapy differ?
Touch Therapy works like an exchange of energy from the giver to the receiver.
In Touch Therapy, therapists place their hands on or near their patient's body with the intention to help or heal. In doing so, therapists believe that they are consciously directing or modulating an individual's energies by interacting with his or her energy field. The focus is on balancing the energies of the total person and stimulating the body's own natural healing ability rather than on the treatment of specific physical diseases.

Sounds kind of WooWoo-ish? Well, we are made up of energy and we exchange energy in many ways. Touch is but one way. Let me give you an example. Have you ever seen a person walk into a room and suddenly it feels like a ray of sunshine just pierced the room? That’s positive energy. Have you ever met someone that immediately made you feel warm and welcome or uplifted? That’s the kind of energy everyone wishes for! On the other hand, have you been in someone’s presence that just made you feel horribly uncomfortable? That too is energy … just the kind you want to avoid!

Every person on the planet has the ability to channel or focus energy into something akin to a radio transmission. In the case of YOU, a caregiver, it’s your compassion, the love of people, your desire to comfort and heal that makes up this beautiful signal your patient or charge feels from you. Your touch is so very therapeutic … but you can do so much more with it.

Touch Therapy is based on the following assumptions:
  • ·        The human being is an open energy system composed of layers of energy that are in constant interaction with self, others, and the environment.
  • ·        Illness is an imbalance in an individual's energy field.
  • ·        Clearing or balancing the energy field promotes health.
  • ·        All humans have natural abilities to heal and enhance the healing in others.

The popularity of Touch Therapy in the nursing profession has encouraged research in this area. There have been more studies on Touch Therapy than other energy therapies (Reiki, Healing Touch).

Early studies, reported by Heidt, indicate efficacy in muscle relaxation and stress and anxiety reduction. Later studies identify physiological effects (blood pressure, pulse, and temperature) as well as subjective measures, such as stress, time perception, and self-assessment of health.

Touch Therapy does not attempt to cure disease, but rather to stimulate the body's natural healing process. According to Touch Therapy research, the major effects of Touch Therapy are a deep relaxation response, reduction of pain and anxiety, and faster wound healing.

Massage Therapy is the manual manipulation of soft body tissues (muscle, connective tissue, tendons, and ligaments) to enhance health and wellbeing. But whether there is a specific goal or not, massage therapy tends to increase the general health and wellbeing of the recipient.

Massage Therapy not only moves the body’s energy, it can relax muscles, strengthen tissue, tone skin, and increase circulation which promotes healing.

Massage can:
  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce stress
  • Enhance physical performance
  • Improve general wellbeing
As a caregiver, I suggest treating yourself to a full body massage, at minimum, once per month. This gives you the opportunity to fully relax and let go. Learning and implementing Touch Therapy into your daily care giving routine will also have a profoundly positive effect on you.

How to Perform Touch Therapy:
In this blog, I am going to attempt to give you a description of a simple but effective technique to use. For those of you interested in a bit more in depth information about various techniques, please drop me an email at regina@lbdtools.com. I am putting together a instruction booklet that will provide you with photos which can help immensely when attempting some of these techniques. As of this writing, it is so very close to being finished.

This technique in particular was used during very intense anxiety / fear episodes with several of my dementia clients when they were brought to my studio for massage the first few visits. It calmed them quickly, helped them to focus on why they were there and put them at ease to move ahead with massage.

I preferred to sit next to the client. Since I am right handed, I will speak to this from a righty’s perspective. If you’re left handed however, make the adjustment to accommodate.

As a right handed person, I would sit on my client’s right; put my left arm around their shoulders cupping their left shoulder with my left hand. This provides a sense of security and comfort.
With my right hand, I would take their left hand and lace the 4 fingers together, like the church and steeple /\ .  

Once the fingers are laced, press gently with your fingertips downward on the top of your client’s knuckles and turn their hand over, palm side up.
Using your thumb and with a gentle but firm pressure, move the flat of your thumb in slow circles (clockwise) in the palm of the hand. Occasionally, and from the center of the palm, move the thumb up towards the wrist slowly using firm but gentle pressure.

You want to be sure and use a firm but gentle pressure. 

If you make the circles to lightly, it becomes a tickle and can further irritate or exacerbate their agitation.

Try it using your own hands. Make the steeple, lace the fingers. Press your fingertips against the knuckles of the opposite hand and slowly rotate the hand until the palm side is up. Then press firmly but gently with the pad of your thumb into the palm of your hand and begin a slow circular massage.

Even this exercise, using your own hands, will have a calming and relaxing effect on you.

You can sit across from or next to your charge, whatever works for you. The Touch Therapy technique would be the same, just make you modifications based on how you are sitting.

Essential Oils for Touch Therapy:
People respond differently to Essential Oils. What one person responds positively to, another may be put off by so my making recommendations is kind of like using a very broad paint brush and painting a very wide swath across a canvas…having said that, I have found that with anxiety, agitation and depression in particular, there are several EO’s that just seem to have the same beautiful effect on everybody that comes in contact with them. The effects will vary from person to person though. While one person may become calm and serene, another may nod off completely and take a little power nap so be watchful until you find what works for your charge.

I preface the following with, no matter what EO you use, make sure to get a bottle of Fractionated Coconut Oil to use with your Essential Oils. EO’s can be very strong and can irritate skin if not cut with the coconut oil. Fractionated Coconut Oil is so pure and so refined; it spreads easily like silk, goes far and is wonderful for the skin. Use a 3 to 1 ratio…3 drops FCO to 1 drop EO. It just doesn’t take much at all.

Please keep in mind, what I am suggesting is based on research and client use and these oils or combinations of have been shown to be highly effective as topical or aromatic applications for the following:
1.    ANXIETY / AGITATION: Serenity or Lavender or Balance
2.    DEPRESSION / SADNESS: Elevation or Clary Sage or Citrus Bliss
3.    LOSS / LACK OF APPETITE: Wild Orange, Lemon, Ginger
4.    MUSCLE PAIN / TREMORS: (Topical Only) AromaTouch
6.    EDEMA: (Topical Only) Basil and Lemongrass and Cypress
7.    INSOMNIA / DIFFICULTY SLEEPING: Serenity or Lavender

Some Guidelines using EO’s:
·       One drop of your choice of EO per hand is more than enough to do the job.
·       If you need more lubrication, add a few drops of the FCO.
·       Always coat the skin with FCO before adding the EO. This way the EO is spread further, won’t irritate the skin and doesn’t end up saturating a tiny area.
·       Always replace the caps on your oils after using

Hey …Who doesn’t like a foot massage…right!!! Well, some people are pretty squeamish about anyone touching their feet while others will whip off the shoes and socks and throw their feet into your lap quicker than you can take a breath. The thing about your feet….they are a road map to every organ in the body. They are your foundation, what keeps you standing upright, moving along AND it is the quickest way for Essential Oils to get to the blood stream and do its job. If you put peppermint oil in the arch of your foot, you will taste peppermint in your mouth in less than 10 seconds. So, if your charge will allow you access to their feet, remember it’s the place to apply oils for the fastest results.

PRECAUTION: If applying FCO and EO’s to the bottoms of the feet, make sure you cover the feet with socks and / or shoes to prevent them from slipping and falling when they get up.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

To reach Regina with your questions or feedback, please, click the link below and fill in the form. http://www.lbdtools.com/contact2.php

Please join us at http://alternativetherapiesfordementia.blogspot.com/ for upcoming articles.

Coming up next: Essential Oils for Aroma Therapy - Stress Reduction, Improved Sleep, Memory and Cognition

Supporting Research on Touch Therapy and incorporating Essential Oils:

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