Sunday, January 16, 2011

Massage Therapy Brings Relief for Chronic Pain and Eases Anxiety for People with Alzheimer’s disease.

When we think of massage, it’s usually as part of a pampering spa treatment to work out the minor aches, pains and strains of too much, or too little exercise.

But for the elderly, massage therapy can do much more than bring relaxation to tired muscles: it can help alleviate chronic pain and assist in maintaining and rebuilding the nervous system.

For older adults, pain is an all-too-common problem. According to the National Pain Foundation, getting out of pain for older adults, in particular those in long term care facilities, often means taking powerful prescription pain killers that don’t always help and can have unintended side effects.

Massage therapy, one of the oldest forms of healing touch, has recently been integrated into nursing homes to help patients with pain related to osteoarthritis and peripheral artery disease, as well as to manage symptoms of anxiety in those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Geriatric massage practitioners will often spend more time on the hands and feet rather than having clients lie on a massage table. Hand or foot massage enhances body awareness and sensation, improves circulation, decreases muscular stiffness and helps decrease inflammation in joints, tendons and bursa sacs. By invigorating the whole circulatory system, massage also helps with conditions such as asthma and emphysema.

But the benefits of massage therapy for older adults are more than skin deep. For depressed seniors or those in long term care facilities (where a sense of isolation and loneliness are all too prevalent), the joy of human touch is critical to healing. Careful massage can help provide the elderly with symptomatic relief and enables seniors to extend the vitality in their lives.

According to an October 1, 2003 article in the journal Nursing Homes,
 “Massage therapy benefits the elderly not only by relieving pain, but also by protecting their overall well-being. It maintains and rebuilds the nervous system's response to stimuli, enabling seniors to resist physical and mental declines. In particular, elders with Alzheimer's disease respond well to massage therapy as another form of communication and as a source of strength and intimacy.”

To find a massage therapy practitioner who specializes in massage for seniors, contact the American Massage Therapy Association.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Herbs for the Elderly: Drawing on Nature's Pharmacy for Health and Wellness

Herbal Remedies for Common Geriatric Ailments

For centuries, herbs have been used to successfully treat a variety of diseases and ailments, from high blood pressure to hay fever. Herbal medicines are still used extensively worldwide — more than 80 percent of Earth’s peoples use herbs for some aspect of primary care

Our grandparents and their grandparents knew that nature is the best pharmacy. Especially for the elderly, medicines can be harsh agents, especially when used in combination with other prescription drugs.  Herbs, when taken under the supervision of a professional, provide a gentle and time-tested substitute or adjunct for prescription and over-the-counter medications.

Many of today’s widely prescribed prescription medications are part of nature’s bountiful pharmacy, including the heart medication digitalis, derived from the leaves of the foxglove plant; and salicylic acid, the origin of aspirin, derived from willow trees. Of the nearly 500 new chemical entities approved by regulatory authorities around the world in the past decade, nearly half were from natural sources.

Under the supervision of a professional herbalist or a physician with training in herbal medicine, herbs can be a complement to a healthful regime and provide a cost-effective way to treat many diseases and conditions common to the elderly.

Because the metabolism of the elderly is often slow, doses of herbs may need to be lower than for younger adults. Too great a dose can create toxicity. “Herbs are, essentially, natural dilute compounds,” notes professional herbalist Kevin Spelman, PhD, of the Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel, Maryland. 
“As such, they often provide a gentler approach to the geriatric system.” Spelman advises anyone considering embarking on a herbal regime to consult a professional herbalist first.

To locate a professional herbalist in your area, contact the American Herbalists Guild ( or the Herbal Medicine department at the Tai Sophia Institute ( Be sure to talk to a professional herbalist or physician with training in herbal medicine about the correct dosage of herbs for your loved one.
Here Are Some Herbal Remedies for Common Geriatric Conditions:

Late-onset diabetes  
Suggested Herbs:
  • Fenugreek (reduces urine sugar levels)
  • Bilberry (antioxidant)
  • Gymnema sylvestre (shown to reduce cholesterol and blood glucose)                                           

Suggested Herbs:
  • Cascara sagrada (use with caution; this can be irritating for some systems).
  •  Triphala (an Ayurvedic remedy with gentle laxative properties)
Suggested Herbs:
  • Ginkgo biloba (stimulates blood flow to the brain)
Anemia/Iron Deficiency
Suggested Herbs:
  • Stinging Nettle (rich in iron and vitamins A, B and C)

Suggested Herbs:
  • Curcumin (extract of tumeric. Very useful as an anti-inflammatory)
  • Bromelian (enzyme from pineapple with anti-inflammatory properties)
  • Glucosamine sulfate/Chondroitin sulfate (stimulates components for join mobility)                 

Suggested Herbs:
  • Eat a diet high in foods containing antioxidants (found in brightly-colored foods such as blue berries, kale, red cabbage, grapes, peaches and cranberries). Best to consume organic varieties.
  • Bilberry (noted for antioxidant activities for eyes).