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Can Guided Imagery Help with Alzheimer’s?

15 Apr

Question:

Hello:
Thank you for your work, I've been enjoying your guided imagery for years.

Do you have a suggestion on guided imagery for someone with Alzheimers? My father is approaching the final stage. He has had an atypical journey so far. His sweet demeanor and patience have made the first stages less difficult than you read about in books and other people's accounts. It is still very difficult for him and my family, but he has not been violent or aggressive.

Right now he is beginning to say no like a toddler and is getting more frustrated than he had been. He is also doing a lot of chattering at times. Whether this is simply talking to himself or existing on another plane or talking to hallucinations I don't know. (Nor do I have any judgment or fear around any of these possibilities.)

He loves music and this is one of the activities he really, really responds too. I think he feels most like himself then. And it is not just music from his era, he is open to new things. Many of the guided imagery recordings are too long for him. I suppose we could always truncate them?

Do you have any suggestions? Also, if you are considering doing a series for people specifically with Alzheimers I think it would be extremely welcome to people and their caregivers. We would feel lucky to beta test anything you were considering.
Thank you very much.

Karen

Answer:

Dear Karen,

Your dad is lucky to have such a caring, compassionate and empathic daughter.  Alzheimer's is such a relentless and exasperating disease for all concerned - it tests everyone.  Hats off to you.

I'm not surprised that music still works for your father, even in the later stages. In case you haven't seen it, there's a terrific summary of the positive benefits of different types of music for various mood states and situations here on the Alzheimer's Foundation site.
 
Steve Kohn, our composer, creates music to manage mood in his scoring of our imagery recordings, and his album, Inward Journey, has music designed for sedation/relaxation, (the third track, which was originally from Hospice & Palliative Care) called Dreamwaves.  And the second track is music designed for stimulation, Breaking Free (originally the “get up and move” music that scores Cardiac ICU & Rehab).

If you want to try short segments of narrated imagery, you could take a look at Guided Imagery Mix: Six Brief Meditations for Mind, Body and Spirit. Those tracks are typically 8-10 minutes long.  But he may prefer to listen to just the music without the words as a less frustrating choice for him. 

For this reason, our focus has been more on the caregivers than the dementia patient, as most indicators suggest that this is where we can have a positive impact. Caregiver Stress was designed with this in mind.

I wish you the best.  I wish we had more to offer your dad. 
And thanks for the question.

All best,
Belleruth
 

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