Objective: This experimental, repeated-measures, crossover design study with nursing home residents examined the efficacy of reflexology in individuals with mild-to-moderate stage dementia. Specifically, the study tested whether a weekly reflexology intervention contributed to the resident outcomes of reduced physiologic distress, reduced pain, and improved affect.
Setting: The study was conducted at a large nursing home in suburban Philadelphia.
Sample: The sample included 21 nursing home residents with mild-to-moderate stage dementia randomly assigned to two groups.
Interventions: The first group received 4 weeks of weekly reflexology treatments followed by 4 weeks of a control condition of friendly visits. The second group received 4 weeks of friendly visits followed by 4 weeks of weekly reflexology.
Outcome measures: The primary efficacy endpoint was reduction of physiologic distress as measured by salivary alpha-amylase. The secondary outcomes were observed pain (Checklist of Nonverbal Pain Indicators) and observed affect (Apparent Affect Rating Scale).
Results: The findings demonstrate that when receiving the reflexology treatment condition, as compared to the control condition, the residents demonstrated significant reduction in observed pain and salivary alpha-amylase. No adverse events were recorded during the study period.
Conclusions: This study provides preliminary support for the efficacy of reflexology as a treatment of stress in nursing home residents with mild-to-moderate stage dementia.