Dementia & Sleep: How Gentle Hand Massage Makes a Difference for People With Memory Disorders by Susan Swetnam

Dementia & Sleep: How Gentle Hand Massage Makes a Difference for People With Memory Disorders

Are you caring for a loved one with dementia? If so, you'll know that getting to sleep at night and staying asleep is often a challenge for those with memory disorders. Fortunately, dementia studies have shown that something as simple as a short hand massage can significantly calm anxiety and help people with dementia fall asleep and stay asleep more easily. As a massage therapist who works with elderly people, here are my recommendations for a simple hand massage you can do before bed: 

  • Apply lotion and gently squeeze your loved one's hand.
  • Turn the hand palm up, stabilizing it in your non-working hand, and make little circles with your fingertips, working slowly around the palm clockwise. You want the pressure to be firm enough to be felt and not tickle, but not too hard. 
  • Turn the hand over and, again stabilizing it in your non-working hand, stroke slowly up and down between the little bones running the long way on the back of the hand, from wrist to the base of the finger.
  • Gently squeeze each finger, enveloping it in your hand.

Every phase of this should be slow and loving and intentional. Singing or speaking softly to your loved one during the massage will make it even better, or you can put on some music he or she likes. Each finger should take about five minutes. 

Anybody can do this, and if you repeat it each night it can become a relaxing, bonding ritual for both of you!

The content on is for informational and entertainment purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. The information on this site should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, and is not a substitute for professional care. Always consult your personal healthcare provider. The opinions or views expressed on do not necessarily represent those of 30Seconds or any of its employees, corporate partners or affiliates.

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What a helpful thing to know. Thank you for sharing this! 💗
Elisa A. Schmitz 30Seconds
How wonderful! I know many people who this will benefit. Many thanks for sharing your expertise with us, Susan Swetnam . Welcome to 30Seconds. We are so happy to have you with us, and look forward to learning and growing with you!
Susan Masterson, PhD
I wish I had seen this when my Dad was alive. This is wonderful.
Terri Jones
This is really wonderful! I write for a seniors blog professionally and would love to share this information with caregivers. I will, of course, credit you as the expert. Elisa All Schmitz 30Seconds, if Susan agrees, is there a way to share email addresses or communicate on the site privately, to gather some more information from her?

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