You are currently viewing Non-Medical Approaches to Memory Care for Older Adults with Memory Loss Living at Home or in a Community Setting

Non-Medical Approaches to Memory Care for Older Adults with Memory Loss Living at Home or in a Community Setting

Families and older adults with memory loss often turn first to medication to treat the disease or the symptoms of the disease. However, for those of us who have worked in the field of aging for years, we have found that so many other approaches work, and often they are overlooked or ignored. 


Live Music, especially a licensed music therapist, can lead amazing classes where people with memory loss can participate, play instruments, relate to historical music, sing, and even share their love for music. Music can improve mood, movement, and even memory concentration.

Massage therapy

Touch is often excluded in memory care, and it is wrong to overlook the benefits of massage therapy for older adults with memory loss. Hand, neck, and arm massage can relax older adults and help them focus. It is critical to ask for permission from the family or person. Having a therapist or certified person is also essential.


Older adults love birds, dogs, and cats and feel loved by their presence. Having a pet with them, no matter where they live, even in a memory care unit, can help transition and adaptation. Older adults often report feelings of safety and trust with an animal nearby. It is equally important to make sure the pet is being cared for. Also, pets should receive all their required vaccines and appropriate care. 

Historical Classes

Historical review of the past is among the best programs for older adults. Reviewing historical wars with history books, slide shows, 1950s car images, high school yearbooks, or other images can excite the older adult and trigger memories. It can often give them greater focus and may improve verbal capacity.

Cognitive therapy

Cognitive therapy is not about reversing the disease or a cure. However, it may stimulate thinking, create calmness, and even improve self-esteem and depression. We often overlook depression and withdrawal; giving an older adult one-on-one time with a licensed social worker or trained cognitive therapist may improve depression and sadness or give them a feeling of purpose. One example is a therapist who works with an engineer and reviews mathematics and math-related ideas. Using the brain’s reserve capacity is essential, and inspiring older adults to share their past wisdom and their passions or what they have learned in life is critical. Every person has something to share and deserves to feel significant.

Spiritual Care

Spiritual care is an essential aspect of caring for someone with dementia; often, older adults’ spiritual needs are overlooked, ignored, or even forgotten. One example I recall from a visit to one of my memory care facilities years ago was with an older Catholic adult who was nonverbal; because of this, the family discontinued weekly communion and Catholic spiritual engagement. They felt she was in the later stages, nonverbal for a long time, and their mom did not need it. As I was visiting, a Catholic priest entered the home; as soon as the resident saw the priest, she started reciting the “Our Father Prayer” and “Hail Mary Prayer.” She was smiling, and her eyes lit up. We then placed a Large Virgin Mary statue in her room, added Communion visits, and prayed with her at night. She improved and was much more alert and oriented. I would say even more focused and verbal. Older adults raised in a religion may revert to it or miss their religious time. The comfort that spiritual interaction may give is often more beneficial than other therapies or interactions, as reported by residents and families.

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