Stress Relief and Memory Training Center

Feasibility of Evidence-Based Hands Exercises in a Home Based Program for people with Alzheimer’s disease and Depression

The set of Hand-Tennis Ball exercises™ has been designed as a part of rehabilitation model for dementia/depression to facilitate cerebral blood flow for fragile seniors.

Valentin Bragin, M.D., PhD, Ilya Bragin M.D.
Stress Relief and Memory Training Center, Brooklyn, NY, USA.

Poster presentation at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, Primary Care Preconference, Boston, 13–18 July 2013

Background: There is ever-growing attention to preservation of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) utilizing an integrative treatment model (combination of medications and non-pharmacological interventions). The interventions related to increasing regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) for people with AD are in the earliest stages of development. An increase regional CRF has been described during hand movements in the healthy individuals (Roland, P.E., 1982, Kawashima, R., 1996).  To facilitate the CBF  in demented, depressed seniors, we develop a set of simple hand – tennis ball exercises ™  for home-based program (Bragin V., 2007).

Objectives: To describe and demonstrate the latest set of hands exercises (2010-2012) for fragile, patient with dementia and limited physical capacity, applicable for office and home based interventions.

Methods: The set of hands exercises consists of hand and finger movements by one or both hands. After completion of the initial assessment of hand movements, all patients participants receive training in the office and workbook for home based program with demonstration of exercises on DVD. The patients are asked to pay attention and memorize the series of hand and finger movements. The dual task part of the program is introduced later and includes breathing or counting. To register the progress of training and the mobility of fingers we use video recording and  simple motor speed and reaction time registration on the computer.

Results: The patients tolerate these exercises very well and over the time memorize these movements using their procedural memory capacities. These exercises help the patients to regain hand and finger mobilities, to coordinate right and left hand movements, to increase attention, procedural memory and brain speed.  Additionally, these movements have immediate positive effects on emotions. Patients and their caregivers report absence of intrusive thoughts during exercises, felling less depressed and anxious.

Conclusion: The hands exercise as a part of home based integrative program could positively improve hand movements in AD community dwelling seniors. This program  appears feasible for outpatient memory clinics, rehabilitation facilities and nursing homes. Effectiveness of this model in various settings requires further research.

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