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Alzheimer’s Disease, a complex and progressive brain disorder, is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. alone. President Ronald Regan declared November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in 1983, at which time less than two million Americans were afflicted with this disease. Today, nearly 44 million persons worldwide have Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia and it is estimated that 605 billion dollars is spent annually caring for them. As this devastating illness advances, memory and cognitive functioning decline; daily living and coping skills diminish, as does the ability to communicate. Eventually, those affected become unable to recognize family and friends or learn new information. They may also exhibit behaviors such as impulsivity, aggression, anxiety and wandering.

Despite recent advances in care and research, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease.

Therapeutic interventions that help to decrease challenging behaviors and improve quality of life can be very beneficial for both those afflicted and also for their caregivers. Dance/movement therapy (DMT) is a useful, non-pharmacologic method for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, as this modality enhances quality of life, may slow cognitive decline and is cost-effective. DMT is based on the principles that the mind and body are connected and that movement reflects patterns of thinking and feeling. DMT participation enhances coping skills for this population and compensates for sensory deficits. This modality also encourages individuals to express themselves, regardless of functional level. Moreover, DMT engages the sensory systems and stimulates the physical, emotional and cognitive areas of functioning.

In addition to DMT, there are several other useful holistic interventions and therapies, as well as support groups and resource sites. Throughout this Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, let us support one another and raise awareness about this devastating illness. Let us continue to move towards a world without Alzheimer’s!

 

Resources:

Reference:

 

Berrol, C.F. (1992). The neurophysiologic basis of the mind-body connection in dance/movement therapy. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 14(1), 19-29.

 

Bräuninger, I. (2014). Dance movement therapy with the elderly: An international internet-based survey undertaken with practitioners. Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy, 9(3), 138-153.

 

Levy, F.J. (2005). Dance/movement therapy; A healing art (2nd rev ed.). Reston, VA: National Dance Association, an Association of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.

 

Schmais, C. (1985). Healing processes in group dance therapy. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 8(1),17-36.

 

Querfurth, H. & LaFerla, F. (2010). Alzheimer’s disease: review article. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(4), 329-340.

 

 

 

 

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