While the physical changes to the brain inherent in the process of Alzheimer’s developing are currently irreversible and incurable, their life limiting affects may be alleviated by improving the quality of life of the person living with Dementia through therapy. The emotional wellbeing of the individual’s family support group may also benefit from the use of such therapy in easing their understandable feelings of frustration, anger, guilt and grief. Supporting a loved one suffering from such a condition has often been described as "mourning the living" and much can be done to alleviate the stress of this on the family support group.
What is Hypnotherapy?
Hypnosis is a totally natural procedure and is one which most of us will be familiar with, but in rather different circumstances. We are all familiar with "day dreaming" or "gazing into space" for example, when our conscious mind has wandered from the task in hand to occupy itself with other matters. Many drivers will also recognize the rather unnerving experience of "coming to" on a long and boring motorway journey and wondering how far they have travelled since they were last "conscious" of driving the car. These events can be described as us experiencing alternative states of consciousness. We haven't been asleep and if anything required our attention we would have responded but we just weren't "here" for a time.
The hypnotic state is just such an alternate state which we allow ourselves to enter and is one of profound relaxation. In general terms, to achieve a state of hypnosis we must satisfy three prerequisites: we must want it to happen, expect it to happen and to help it to happen. If we do not want or expect it to happen or resist it in some way then it is virtually impossible to induce the hypnotic state in someone against their will.
The reason that hypnosis is effective in therapy is that while our conscious minds are logical and calculating they are very limited in scope and taken up with dealing with what is happening to us in everyday life. Our unconscious minds, on the other hand, are uncritical, intuitive and very receptive to therapeutic suggestion and capable of working on these suggestions all the time in "the background" while we get on with life. Hypnosis deals with this unconscious aspect of our mind.
Hypnotherapy for Alzheimer’s Patients
Recent research conducted by Dr Daniel Nightingale, Senior Dementia Consultant for Southern Cross Healthcare, in conjunction with Dr Simon Duff of the Division of Clinical Psychology at Liverpool University has shown that specialized hypno-psychotherapy can be effective in improving the quality of life for Alzheimer patients in seven main areas:
* Concentration on daily tasks thus retaining valued independence
* Relaxation thereby reducing anxiety which is a common feature
* Motivation, which helps to avoid depressive states
* Undertaking daily activities and keeping active
* Short term memory retention
* Memory for significant life events
* Socialization, thereby avoiding the tendency for self-isolation and depression.
Dr Duff said: “Over a nine month period of weekly sessions, it became clear that the participants attending the discussion group remained the same throughout. The group who received ‘treatment as usual’ showed a small decline over the assessment period, yet those having regular hypnosis sessions showed real improvement across all of the areas that we looked at.
“Participants who are aware of the onset of dementia may become depressed and anxious at their gradual loss of cognitive ability and so hypnosis – which is a tool for relaxation – can really help the mind concentrate on positive activity like socialization.”
A later study showed that these beneficial effects lasted beyond the original trial period and in some cases had continued to improve.
Hypnotherapy for Alzheimer’s Care-Givers
The effects on a person taking care of a loved one who has Alzheimer’s can be seen in increased levels of stress and anxiety, and may also cause premature aging.
Hypnotherapy can help them to come to terms with the feelings of anger, sadness and guilt that they inevitably feel, so they are emotionally better-equipped to cope and also to come to terms with the situation. By helping themselves, they can more easily understand and support the AD sufferer.
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