Hypnotherapy is often used to change behaviour or negative thought patterns - but can hypnosis help dementia?
Studies have shown that it may have positive benefits that improve the general quality of life for those living with the condition.
It is important to stress, however, that hypnosis is not a treatment or cure for dementia, and should be used alongside other holistic and medical interventions.
This blog will cover the basics of hypnotherapy and answer the question 'can hypnosis help dementia?'
Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:
- Hypnosis is not a cure for dementia but can be used as a treatment to alleviate some of the symptoms.
- People living with dementia are affected in many aspects of their life, from sensory perception to mood disorders and personality changes.
- A number of clinical studies have investigated the impact of hypnosis on dementia and found that hypnosis can be positive.
- Quality of life is the most important tool in investigating the impact of hypnosis.
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a complementary therapy that falls outside of the remit of traditional medical interventions.
This holistic approach works with a therapist inducing the patient into a state of deeper concentration or heightened focus.
In the context of hypnosis and dementia, hypnotherapists are likely to use what is called suggestion therapy.
In this state, the patient is able to respond to positive suggestions made by the therapist in order to change behaviours, perceptions or sensations, all of which can be impacted by dementia.
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Can hypnosis cure dementia?
The short answer to this is no.
Hypnosis cannot cure any of the conditions that fall under the umbrella term of dementia.
However, it may be a useful tool in treating some symptoms experienced by those needing dementia care.
By targeting negative or challenging changes to behaviour or sensory perception (for example) it promotes a better quality of life allowing the individual to feel happier, confident or more able to achieve certain things.
Is there evidence that hypnosis can help dementia?
Yes, there is a lot of evidence, collected through clinical studies, that hypnotherapy treatments have a positive effect on the lives of people living with dementia.
Forensic psychologist Dr Simon Duff, from the University of Liverpool, has investigated the effects of hypnosis on people living with dementia.
In his study, conducted in 2008, Dr Duff found that hypnosis can slow down the impacts of dementia and improve quality of life for those living with the condition.
Participants who are aware of the onset of dementia may become depressed and anxious at their gradual loss of cognitive ability and so hypnosis – which is a tool for relaxation – can really help the mind concentrate on positive activity like socialisation.
The study found that people living with dementia who had received hypnotherapy showed an improvement in concentration, memory and socialisation compared to the other two treatment groups that participated in the trial.
Relaxation, motivation and daily living activities also improved with the use of hypnosis, the study found.
Dementia, hypnosis and improving quality of life
Another study, published in 2007 for Alzheimer’s Care Today, emphasises the link between hypnosis and improving the quality of life for those living with dementia in residential care environments.
Quality of life can mean a number of things, but in this context the study defines it as aspects of an individual’s life such as enjoyment of food, sex, health, and relationships among other items.
You can also think of this, amongst other things, as how happy, comfortable or confident someone is after the diagnosis of a chronic or progressive disease such as dementia.
How hypnosis could improve quality of life for people living with dementia
- Activities of daily living (ADLs)
- Immediate memory
- Memory for significant life events
As a control the study had a hypnosis group (HG), a discussion only group (DG) and a treatment as usual group (TG) which they used to compare findings, measure the success of the hypnosis and answer the question ‘Can hypnosis help dementia?’.
The study employed suggestion therapy methods once the hypnosis group had entered the state of relaxation required for the practice.
Here are some examples of the suggestions made to the group:
- 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.
The most notable findings from the study are seen in the categories of:
Concentration – From baseline, the HG shows an increase over the study phase and at 21 months the HG still demonstrates an increase in observer-rated levels of concentration.
Activities of daily living – the HG has demonstrated increasing improvement in engagement with these kinds of activities over the other 2 groups.
Memory – The HG participants show an overall and sustained improvement.
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So can hypnosis help dementia?
The study concluded that:
- Individuals with dementia can be hypnotised.
- There is an increasing body of empirical data demonstrating that hypnosis can play a role in improving the quality of life of individuals with dementia.
It also stresses that ‘it is crucial to differentiate between improving the psychosocial quality of life of persons with dementia and impacting upon the process of dementia’.
This means that while hypnosis is not impactful in the sense of being a cure for the disease, it has been shown to have positive benefits on improving quality of life for people living with dementia.
There’s more here on what are the early signs of dementia.
Is hypnotherapy dementia friendly?
Some concerns have been raised over whether people living with dementia have the concentration span to self-induce the state needed for hypnotic treatment.
However, studies suggest that hypnotherapy is safe and beneficial for people living with dementia.
This being said, there are some things you may want to consider for you or your loved one when researching practitioners or booking a session.
Creating a dementia-friendly environment is essential to the comfort of the person undergoing treatment, as well as the success of each session.
Unless the therapist you choose specialises in dealing with those living with dementia, their office might not necessarily be dementia-friendly.
Lots of colours, patterns or objects may create a confusing environment for someone with dementia, which could cause unnecessary agitation before the treatment. Check this out on sensory stimulation.
When you have connected with a therapist to enquire, your or your loved ones’ dementia needs should be at the forefront of the conversation.
Consider any additional needs that you have when it comes to access.
These could be to do with mobility, hearing, communication, confidence and many more.
If you struggle with something, ask a friend, family member or carer to accompany you to any appointments. While they don’t have to do things for you, they will be there should you need any assistance.
You may want to look for a hypnotherapist that specialises in working with dementia.
Hypnotherapy is not a medically certified treatment and no specific qualifications are needed to practise.
However, it is recommended that you find a practitioner who is regulated or on an Accredited Register.
You can search for practitioners on the Professional Standards website here or by using the UK Hypnotherapy Directory here.
Hypnotherapy is not usually available on the NHS, this means that you will have to pay for the sessions yourself.
On average, hypnotherapy sessions can cost between £50 – £100 per hour. Check when doing your research if therapists offer a free initial consultation or treatment packages.
There may be hypnotherapy practitioners working for the NHS that you can access.
To find out more about accessing hypnotherapy services through the NHS, speak to your GP or your local integrated care board (ICB).
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