Can Guided Imagery Help People With Dementia?

Dear HJ:

I’m a geriatric nursing supervisor who works in a nursing home where we are constantly dealing with confused elderly, who are awake all night and sleep most of the day away. I would like to try some new tools. My daughter suggested guided imagery for sleep or agitation. Do you have any suggestions on what audio program would work best for those in various types and stages of dementia? Does a technique like guided imagery have any influence over a compromised brain?


Dear Kris,

Well, the good news is that because imagery works on some of the most primitive, survival-based structures of the brain (as well as a few higher level departments), it can indeed soothe and calm people with dementia or other conditions involving compromised cognition. 

The voice tone, pacing and music, as well as the general emotional feel, can and does have an impact on agitation, distress, fear and insomnia, even if the specific meaning of the words doesn’t reach the mind of the listener. 

For this reason, guided imagery has been found to be effective for kids and adults with developmental disabilities (improving performance and reducing stress), and for people with Alzheimers and dementia. It also has an observable impact on infants, dogs and cats.

I recommend using our Healthful Sleep imagery for starters at night; and the Relaxation & Wellness imagery during the day. Steve Kohn’s music, Meditative Reflections magery, is another calming tool. But because the words aren’t so important, and it’s all about the nonverbal signals, you can choose pretty much anything that appeals, soothes and settles your patients.

Best of luck with this. 

br signature


p.s. If you liked this post, you might enjoy getting our weekly e-news with other articles just like it. If so, sign up here!