Perhaps you have noticed lately that your aging mother or father has seemed depressed and lonely lately. Or maybe you have noticed that they lack an appetite, and that they are in pain all the time. If your mom or dad is mobility challenged, this may be a bigger issue than you realize. And it may continue to get worse if you don’t do something about it sooner rather than later.
It is often difficult to tell if an elderly person is suffering from depression, as the signs and symptoms may be subtle. There are so many health conditions that affect the aging population that loneliness and depression can pale by comparison. Perhaps your mom is starting to forget things, like leaving the car running with the door open when she is inside making a sandwich. Perhaps she is forgetting small simple things, like where she left her keys or where she parked her car. She may even be getting lost walking around the neighborhood.
When an elderly person starts suffering from dementia, this is much more concerning to her than it is to you. Symptoms of dementia can very easily lead to depression, as there is little that can be done to help someone who has dementia, and there is no cure.
Cancer is another common disease of aging, and it is one of the leading causes of death among the elderly. Again, as a condition with no real cure, this can lead to depression all by itself. Then you take into account the fact that you don’t get to visit as much as you used to, and that the grandkids have all grown and have their own extremely busy lives so they don’t visit anymore either, and you have a recipe for sadness, loneliness, and depression.
Enter geriatric massage. Massage therapy by itself has many benefits for patients suffering from all types of conditions. However, depression and loneliness are two conditions most helped by massage therapy. In addition to providing symptom relief for depression, the companionship that can be provided by the massage therapist, who listens to your mom and has meaningful conversations, means that this type of therapy can go far beyond just the physical. Mental and emotional stimulation can help ward off depression and loneliness, and this is a big part of senior massage.
Another condition that can be greatly benefited by massage for the elderly is Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Aside from the depression and loneliness that these people feel on a regular basis, there are other symptoms of these conditions that can be helped by massage for the elderly. One of the most common symptoms experiences by both of these groups is agitation. Verbal abuse of caregivers, as well as pacing, wandering, and resisting caregivers is very common in Alzheimer’s disease. With dementia, aggressiveness is often seen in patients.
Geriatric massage was successful in reducing these expressions of aggression, displayed by both Alzheimer’s patients and dementia patients. In dementia patients, the intellectual and emotional decline that is so common to them was also reduced over the course of the senior massage treatment.
Last, of course, are cancer patients. In addition to the depression that is so much more common and severe in these patients, geriatric massage can help with the side effects from chemotherapy treatments. Sleeplessness, pain, and nausea were all reduced in studies where cancer patients were provided with massage therapy. While massage for the elderly is not a treatment or a cure for cancer, it can be greatly beneficial as an adjunctive therapy.
So, if you see your mom or dad in any of these situations, you may want to consider adding geriatric massage to their regular routine. No matter what, it will help them feel better in some way, often by reducing pain, although there are so many other benefits to senior massage, many of which are not completely understood. If your mom or dad is suffering from depression, anxiety, pain, restlessness, or mental health conditions, you may want to consider the simple addition of senior massage to their weekly routine.