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Can Guided Imagery Help People With Dementia?

21 Feb

Dear HJ:

I’m a geriatric nursing supervisor who works in a nursing home where we are constantly dealing with confused elderly, who are awake all night and sleep most of the day away. I would like to try some new tools. My daughter suggested guided imagery for sleep or agitation. Do you have any suggestions on what audio program would work best for those in various types and stages of dementia? Does a technique like guided imagery have any influence over a compromised brain?

Kris

Dear Kris,

Well, the good news is that because imagery works on some of the most primitive, survival-based structures of the brain (as well as a few higher level departments), it can indeed soothe and calm people with dementia or other conditions involving compromised cognition. 

The voice tone, pacing and music, as well as the general emotional feel, can and does have an impact on agitation, distress, fear and insomnia, even if the specific meaning of the words doesn’t reach the mind of the listener. 

For this reason, guided imagery has been found to be effective for kids and adults with developmental disabilities (improving performance and reducing stress), and for people with Alzheimers and dementia. It also has an observable impact on infants, dogs and cats.

I recommend using our Healthful Sleep imagery for starters at night; and the Relaxation & Wellness imagery during the day. Steve Kohn’s music, Meditative Reflections magery, is another calming tool. But because the words aren’t so important, and it’s all about the nonverbal signals, you can choose pretty much anything that appeals, soothes and settles your patients.

Best of luck with this. 

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BR 

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award