Massage alleviated agitated behavior, such as mumbling and pacing, in people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a research study.
“The Effect of Therapeutic Touch on Agitated Behavior and Cortisol in Persons with Alzheimer’s Disease” was conducted by staff at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Nursing and the University of Washington Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems School of Nursing.
Ten residents of a special-care unit, ages 71-84, with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, participated in the study, which hypothesized that Therapeutic Touch would reduce the frequency of subjects’ agitated behavior and their level of salivary and/or urine cortisol.
Observers used a modified Agitated Behavior Rating Scale (ABRS) to measure the frequency and intensity of agitated behavior such as rhythmic, purposeless movements of the hands, mumbling and continuous questions, and walking aimlessly.
Six nursing students, blinded to the study, served as the observers, recording behaviors on the ABRS every 20 minutes, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, on a palm-top computer, with a total of 630 observations per subject.
Data collection occurred for 16 days, three of which included sessions of Therapeutic Touch, with an 18-day “wash-out” period, followed by three more days of observations in a “post-wash-out” period.
Massage was provided by the principal investigator to each participant for five-to-seven minutes, twice a day, on days 5-7 of the study, between 10-11:30 a.m. and 3-4:30 p.m.
Massage, state the study’s authors, “is an intentionally directed process during which the practitioner uses the hands as a focus to facilitate the healing process.”
Results of the study showed a significant decrease in overall agitated behavior, especially vocalization and pacing/walking, which together made up 60 percent of the agitated behavior in these participants. The biggest decrease happened during the three days of Therapeutic Touch.
There were no significant changes for salivary or urine cortisol during this study.
“The current study, supported by previous work, suggests that Therapeutic Touch, as an intervention that is easy to teach and readily learned, can decrease the frequency and intensity of vocalization and pacing,” state the study’s authors.
– Source:The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Nursing and the University of Washington Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems School of Nursing. Authors: Diana Lynn Woods, Ph.D., R.N., and Margaret Dimond, Ph.D., R.N. Originally published in Biological Research for Nursing, Vol. 4, No. 2, Oct. 2002, pp. 104-114.