Massage for the Elderly
Geriatric massage therapy is designed to address the specific needs of the elderly population. This type of massage for the elderly uses gentle and light application of massage techniques and can include passive stretching and a light oil or lotion to permit your muscles to be worked on without causing excessive friction to the skin. These techniques can help enhance blood circulation, combat depression, improve balance and flexibility, reduce the pain of arthritis, increase joint mobility, improve posture, and encourage overall well-being.
Benefits of massage to elderly people and people with dementia:
A short hand massage can encourage a relaxation response in the brain, decreasing our levels of cortisol (a stress hormone). This is particularly important in elderly people as our immune system is stronger when cortisol levels are lowered. Massage can also increase levels of serotonin in the body. This is a neurochemical which regulates mood and enhances feelings of calm and relaxation.
Massage can help release endorphins, which in turn make us feel happy and energised. Even if a person with dementia cannot remember having had a massage that day, they may remember the feeling of being happy. They may remember that they did something enjoyable that day, even if their precise memory of it has been displaced. It is important to keep doing these enjoyable activities, ensuring we keep releasing the valuable endorphins that our bodies need.
Soothing massage strokes and comforting touch can help create a sense of trust for a person with dementia. This soothing touch can help to reassure and to reduce distress. It can also help people with dementia to feel comfortable in the company of others without the pressure of conversation or daunting questions.
It is important to understand the expectations of complementary massage therapy for elderly people. It will not 'take 50 years off' and leave them doing laps around their care home grounds, nor will it cure illnesses. However, it does bring a number of physical and psychological benefits (of which we have just scratched the surface), which can help to make residents much more comfortable.
I am a Dementia Friend but not a Dementia Care Specialist by any means, and my work is based on: my observations, personal experience as a carer and further reading.