Dancing to fight Dementia

Healthwatch

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More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease and at least half-a-million suffer from Parkinson’s.

Now researchers are looking at how dancing may help these patients stay active.

One class is using dance to prevent decline for dementia and Parkinson’s patients. This is not your typical dance class. 

Most of the participants have Parkinson’s and other neuro-degenerative diseases.

Christina Soriano, Associate Professor of Dance at Wake Forest University says, ”I think movement, 
specifically, dance, is an incredibly powerful, non-pharmacological intervention.” 

Wake Forest University conducts this class as part of a study to determine if dance can benefit these patients. 

Christina Soriano continues. ” I always say change is the only constant and so as we age we need to be practicing change.” 

Soriano provides prompts instead of specific dance instruction so everyone moves at their own ability.

Christina Hugenschmidt, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Gerontology & Geriatric Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center says, “the preliminary results from our pilot study show that there was increased connectivity in certain brain regions. Those changes correlated with changes in balance and also decreased apathy and decreased depressive symptoms.” 

Eunice Benson has had Parkinson’s for 15 years and says this class changed her life. 

Eunice Benson says, “I walk with a cane sometimes, but since I’ve been doing this, I don’t have to.” 

Janie Petersen says it helps with tremors and stiffness, and she can bring her husband John who has severe rheumatoid arthritis. 

 “So that he can participate and move too, “Janie Petersen continues

Not only is this improvisational dance helping with balance and mobility it’s also keeping patients socially engaged.

Jim Stark says, “you feel like you’ve accomplished something keeping Parkinson’s patients moving in the right direction. “

This class is part of a trial where the control group plays party games while the other group dances. 

Researchers are developing an app that would allow homebound patients to take part in the improvisational dance.

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