Touch as Therapy for Dementia

Touch as Therapy for Dementia

Touch like hand massage, shoulder massage and reflexology are beneficial as therapy for dementia.

The Benefit of Touch

It is common knowledge that touch, for example in the form of holding hands or giving a hug, reflects a form of love or care. It turns out that research by professor Dacher Keltner of UC Berkeley has found that touch plays a significant and fundamental role in human communication. It was further found that touch is beneficial to a person’s physical health. A hug, for example provides several benefits including stress reduction, expression of care, increase of happiness, reduction of disease symptoms, and increase in blood circulation. These benefits are also applicable in caring for dementia.

For someone with dementia, human touch plays an important role in increasing their overall wellness. Research has found that only a 5-minute hand massage can result in a physical relaxation response and reduction in cortisol levels, the hormone that the body releases when the body is under stress. The sensations that are felt during a massage can also increase serotonin levels, a neurochemical that increases calmness and reduces anxiety, all of which are beneficial for dementia.

Touch and Dementia Therapy

In recent years, there has been a movement towards reduction or elimination of the use of medications in managing dementia. Aside from not being consistently effective, medications often time bring about negative side effects. In its place, senior care providers apply the use of non-medication strategies to manage behaviors. Personal interaction, including the use of touch, has become a widely used method as an effective intervention in dementia therapy. Touch therapy, often in the form of massage, combines the principles of healthcare with personal interaction that is very important in increasing the wellbeing of people with dementia. Aside form massage, meaningful touch can also be implemented in simple day-to-day interactions such as hand shaking, holding hands, and the touching of shoulders or back. This philosophy is one also practiced at RUKUN Senior Care.   

Not only does human touch provide a positive benefit, the absence of touch can actually cause negative physical and emotional effects. Without human touch, seniors in general run a higher risk of increased anxiety, feelings of isolation, lower trust in people around them, and reduced sensitivity of the senses. Seniors with serious medical conditions have a higher need for touch. For them, touch provides comfort and reassurance, and a feeling of safety.

The Benefit of Hand Massage

Research has found that dementia therapy in the form of a short hand massage resulted in a significant reduction in agitation for one hour afterwards. Hand massage was also found to deepen the relationship between a caregiver and person with dementia. In addition, reflexology of the feet has been shown to provide deep relaxation, pain and anxiety reduction, support for better quality sleep, and comfort for the person with dementia. One particular study found that daily reflexology session for two weeks resulted in reduced agitation with the positive changes lasting two weeks after.

For people with dementia, touch serves as a universal language to elicit positive behaviors and promote feelings of safety and well-being.

RUKUN Senior Care
Phone: 021 8795 1525 


Eldecare Alliance, The Importance of Skilled Human Touch in Dementia Care
Greater Good Magazine, Hands On Research: The Science of Touch

About RUKUN Senior Living

We believe that happiness and comfort are the keys to a person’s quality of life. So, RUKUN Senior Living has offered a range of residential facilities and services for seniors to support all their needs – from seniors with an independent and dynamic lifestyle to those who need assistance with daily activities. 

The range of service options available provide flexibility to adjust to a senior’s needs. For seniors who prefer to live on their own or with family members, there is: 

  • RUKUN Senior Club
    for independent seniors to participate in a full day schedule of activities. 
  • Dementia Day Program
    for senior with dementia to participate in a series of activities and interactions designed to optimize their day. Available at Darmawan Park, Sentul dan Dementia Support Center, Cipete.
  • RUKUN Home Care for seniors who need profesional caregiving in the home (Service the JaBoDeTaBek area).

Those interested in residing at RUKUN Senior Living, Sentul, can enjoy a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) offering a range of residential options and integrated services as a solution for each phase of a senior’s life:

  • RUKUN Senior Living Resort
    with complete facilities and a range of supporting services including Activity, wellness monitoring, food and beverage, housekeeping dan
    laundry, and Assisted Living services. The complete facilities include:
    Activity Room, Game Room, Art Room, Swimming Pool, Jacuzzi, Fishing Lake, Jogging Path, and Gazebos.
  • RUKUN Senior Care
    offering an intimate facility and services for seniors needing Dementia Support and Nursing Care. Includes activity program, 24-hour wellness staff and doctor on staff.
Phone: 021 8795 1525

Touch as Therapy for Dementia

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