The many complicated aspects of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia make caring for patients and their caregivers a challenge. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s currently has no known cure. This makes it a disease that ruins lives both physically and emotionally, as caregivers watch their loved ones slowly succumb to Alzheimer’s devastating effects. However, there is hope in alleviating some of the issues through a Japanese practice known as Reiki. The practice has shown effective in clinical studies as a treatment for both patients and their caregivers alike.
Reiki is both a spiritual and alternative medicine practice originally developed by a Japanese Buddhist monk in the 1920s. It is based on the belief that the power of physical touch, by way of the palms of the hands and tips of the fingers, can be used to channel the body’s natural energy in a way that promotes general healing and overall good health.
Reiki for Alzheimer’s Patients and Caregivers
There are two forms of Reiki in use today: traditional Japanese Reiki and Westernized Reiki. The traditional form relies on the practitioner’s intuition and experience to determine where best to apply touch. The Westernized treatment uses a more systematic roach, relying on specific touch points for specific purposes. It stands to reason that Westernized Reiki is the form most commonly practiced in the United States.
One of the most promising areas of treatment for Alzheimer’s patients is that of improving mild cognitive impairment. According to Psychcentral, numerous peer-reviewed clinical studies have shown that the proper application of Reiki can indeed improve cognitive impairment among dementia patients.
Reiki for Alzheimer’s Patients
In one study referenced by Psychcentral, two groups of patients were studied side-by-side: one that received regular Reiki treatments and another that did not. At the conclusion of the study, the group receiving the treatments showed measurable improvement in cognitive functioning, memory and general behavior.The most exciting thing about Reiki is that caregivers can learn to administer it themselves. For just the cost of the lessons, which might be covered with private health insurance, caregivers can learn a skill that will provide a real benefit to their loved ones. It is a very cost-effective way to reduce the negative cognitive effects of dementia. Obviously, Reiki will not cure the disease or prevent its progression, but it does make dealing with it easier.
Treatment for Caregivers
Reiki is also an exciting treatment for caregivers who struggle right along with their suffering loved ones. Why do caregivers need care? Studies have shown that caregivers suffer from very high stress levels as a result of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient while at the same time trying to maintain the daily routine. That stress can result in a variety of health problems, including elevated blood pressure, anxiety or nervousness, heart problems, and so on.
Another problem caregivers have is one of neglecting their own health. Their busy schedules have often been burning the candle at both ends to the point of not taking care of themselves. Any health problems resulting from the increased stress are not dealt with, making matters much worse.
Reiki is able to relieve much of the stress caregivers’ experience, thereby making it easier for them to care for loved ones and themselves simultaneously. Other family members can learn to administer Reiki so the caregiver does not have to pay for individual sessions.
How It Works
Reiki is practiced as a series of light touches and taps based on the visual appearance of the head, neck, and other portions of the body. The practitioner will blow on the skin, perhaps tap it lightly a number of times, or apply a certain amount of pressure with the palms of his hands.
The practice is believed to help channel the natural energy in the human body in a specific direction, as determined by the practitioner. Reiki is also practices at a distance making this form of alternative healing ideal for anyone living with Alzheimer’s or dementias. The person receiving Reiki feels calmer and more relaxed but does not have to leave the comfort of their environment to receive the benefits.
Other than that, no one really knows why Reiki works as an Alzheimer’s patient and caregiver treatment. However, we do not really need to know for patients and their families to benefit. As long as clinical studies show Reiki can be beneficial to patient outcomes, it is a treatment that should be included in the full compendium offered by doctors.