Alzheimer’s is a condition also termed as dementia, but dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a number of conditions of which the most common one is Alzheimer’s.  It is a progressive condition in which nerve cells in the brain become blood starved, degenerate and die, and the size of the brain substance shrinks.  The brain is the centre of abstract awareness and relationship of consciousness.  According to the Alzheimer’s Association of Ireland, currently there are 55,000 people in Ireland affected by the condition.  This includes 19,000 men and 34,650 women.

Dementia is generally associated with the elderly, and termed ‘late onset’ or over the age of 60.  Medical research indicates that a certain form of dementia appears to be associated with one of the three genes for a blood protein called apolipoprotein E.  It involves loss of memory and other intellectual functions, leading to confusion, the inability to hold clear conversations, unawareness of surroundings, a childlike mentality, and occasionally fits of violence and other incapacitating aspects.  Of this 55,000 there are 4,000 people in Ireland diagnosed with ‘early onset’ dementia under the age of 60.  The implications with this diagnosis for a younger person involves major practical every-day decisions such as employment and the impact any changes are going to have on family life especially where a young family is  involved.  Alzheimer’s is the most common form of early onset dementia in Ireland today.  Early onset dementia can also present itself with Down’s Syndrome and other learning disabilities as well as conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinsons, Huntingtons or HIV and AIDS.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive condition and as yet there is no known cure.  As symptoms present themselves medications are one option of treatment which help to manage these symptoms and these meds can also help to slow the rate of progression.  The main drugs include Donepezil, Rivastigmine, Galantamine, and Memantine. In some cases the condition can also bring on depression, as well as behaviour and personality changes, which are treated with   medications such as sleeping tablets, tranquillisers, anti-anxiety drugs anti-depressants and anti-psychotic drugs.

Looking at the condition on a physical level, the first phase includes becoming increasingly forgetful, anxious, wandering, becomes restless and possibly depressed.  The second phase involves severe memory loss of recent events, while the third phase involves becoming severely disorientated and confused, hallucinations and involuntary actions. While on a holistic or emotional level this presentation can indicate that there is a decline of the life giving emotional input which is the blood, which can result in a deep mental trauma.  Along with this there can be an intense fear of the ageing process and its many associations.  The body can also shut down present day awareness as a way of ignoring the future.

Reflexology is an ideal non-invasive holistic therapy which can greatly assist the person with this condition.  The treatment should be supportive, emphatic, respectful, dignified, loving, caring, relaxing, and nourishing.  The primary system to work is the Nervous System and particularly the Central Nervous System including the brain and spinal cord.  Some primary points should include:

Brain –                 To balance and relax the CNs, release from grips of tension and renew brain cells

Spine –                To release tension and improve circulation

Solar Plexus –    For relaxation and encourages deep breathing

Diaphragm –      Frees blocked emotions and aids breathing

Pituitary –          Controls heart rate, blood pressure and respiration

Pineal –               Stimulates the production of melatonin

Lungs –                Encourages oxygenation in the blood and helps relieve the emotional burden

Chest –                Relieves anxiety, improves heart rate and circulation

Thyroid –            Regulates the metabolic rate

Parathyroid –    Regulates the metabolic rate

Adrenals –          Encourages muscle tone, regulates fluid balance, improves energy, stimulates Immune system reduces fatigue and restlessness

Helper areas which are also beneficial include:

  • The circulatory & Immune Systems
  • All 5 Zones
  • The Spine to stimulate all neural activity throughout the body
  • Effleurage & relaxation techniques to reduce stress and tension
  • Breathing and breath control to relieve anxiety

Aftercare and Advice about living with dementia.

  • Healthy Diet – Eat a varied well balanced healthy diet at regularly throughout the day
  • Stay Active – Do 30 minutes of a moderate physical activity every day
  • Socialise – Maintain links with family members and friends, clubs, activities and hobbies
  • Work the Brain – Keep your brain active and continue to challenge it every day
  • Keep a Routine – Have a structure in your day by building routines and daily habits

Deirdre Murray

Deirdre Murray Holistic Sligo