I have seen first hand the effects of dementia on my grandmother, and it was horrendous to see the person I knew and loved fade away. In the last few months of her life, the occasions when she recognised me where less and less frequent and it was such a joy when the light was flicked back on and recognition of who I was flooded across her face. It was wonderful for both of us and in those moments she knew what was happening to her and she was completely lucid and aware, despite the tinge of sadness we made the most of these moments when I visited her. I used hypnosis with her to focus her on the many fun memories she had and also to help bring her back out of her delusions and sometimes, these delusions were upsetting for her, so I used hypnosis to distract and re-focus her attention onto positive, happy memories.
This is such a cruel disease that robs people of their identity, personality and soul and is equally traumatic for their families as they watch them fade away and much more research is needed to enable us to provide better treatment and care for those diagnosed.
Study 1: Hypnosis Can Improve Seven Aspects of Quality of Life for Individuals with Dementia
Alternative Approaches to Supporting Individuals With Dementia: Enhancing Quality of Life Through Hypnosis
Results: This pilot study explored the use of hypnosis to influence 7 aspects of quality of life in individuals with dementia: concentration, relaxation, motivation, activities of daily living, immediate memory, memory of significant events, and socialization. The results indicate that hypnosis has a beneficial impact on quality of life on both a short-term and long-term basis. Unlike the other study participants, the participants in the hypnosis group showed improvement in all 7 items – some of which were maintained over a period of time, such as 21 months or more.
The study authors hypothesize that perhaps an individual with dementia is aware of his or her gradual loss of abilities. That awareness leads to increased levels of anxiety and depression – which are known to involve active cognitive processing. Because the individual’s limited cognitive resources are being used up by anxiety and depression, even greater loss of memory, motivation and ability takes place. The authors further hypothesize that hypnosis may decrease an individual with dementia’s anxiety and depression (through positive suggestion and relaxation), which – in turn – may free up otherwise engaged resources so they are available for the individual to use to successfully accomplish cognitive tasks.
Notes: Eighteen participants were recruited from 2 care homes and were randomly allocated into 1 of 3 groups, the hypnosis group (HG), the discussion group (DG), and the treatment-as-usual group (TG). The HG received weekly individual sessions of hypnosis carried out in their single-occupancy bedrooms at their residential or nursing home. Each session lasted approximately 1 hour. Thus, over the 9-month period each HG participant received a total of 36 hours of hypnosis in 36 sessions. Prior to the first hypnosis session, each participant received 1-hour consultation and interview to customize the terminology used during the hypnosis sessions. This ensured that the language used was familiar and personalized for each participant and to ensure comprehension of suggestions that were to be used.
Participants were also introduced to the process of progressive muscle relaxation. Participants were induced into hypnosis in 3 phases:
(i) eye closure
(ii) progressive muscle relaxation, starting at the scalp and moving progressively down toward the feet
(iii) a permissive induction. Permissive inductions “ask” each participant to allow oneself to become more relaxed. After deepening, the HG participants were given direct suggestions relating to the 7 items described earlier, along with additional “CRC” suggestions (Calmness, Relaxation, and Confidence).
Examples of the statements are provided below.
- At the end of this session, and between now and the next time I see you, you will feel more relaxed and at ease, more motivated to do the things you want to do.
- You will have clarity of thought; you will be able to concentrate for longer periods of time.
- You will have fewer concerns and less feelings of anxiousness.
- Spending time with others will have meaning and you will want to spend time chatting with others.
For each of the 7 items, all participants were rated on a 7-point scale, assessed once at the start of the study period and then at weekly intervals.
Alzheimer’s Care Today 2007; 8(4):321-331
By: Simon Duff, Ph.D., is a chartered forensic psychologist and a trained hypnotherapist, working at the Division of Clinical Psychology, University of Liverpool, and the Mersey Forensic Psychology Service, Liverpool, United Kingdom. Daniel Nightingale, Ph.D., was first trained in social work, then as a registered nurse in learning disabilities before completing a doctorate in both learning disabilities and transitional shock. He is a trained hypnotherapist and head of dementia services at Southern Cross Healthcare, The Alton Centre, Northampton, United Kingdom.