When you are experiencing dementia, your world can often feel out of control. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementias—confusion, irritability, difficulty communicating, and disorientation—can result in sensory overload and create stress due to overstimulation. For people living with dementia, the brain may not process sensory stimuli as it once did, which can increase the chances of experiencing moments of distress or frustration.
Managing moments of overstimulation and sensory overload can result in a higher quality of life for a person with dementia. Today, we’re going to look at some great sensory activities for dementia patients and why they can be beneficial.
Why Sensory Stimulation is Helpful for People with Dementia
Sensory stimulation uses various stimuli like music, fragrances, and certain foods to help individuals recall memories they might struggle to remember otherwise. The senses are deeply linked to one’s memory, making it easier for dementia patients to remember things.
Using stimulating sensory media can also help people with dementia communicate and express themselves more easily. It often results in a more relaxing environment where the brain can feel unburdened from stimulating pressures and focus on one single stimulus that brings relief.
Stimulating Activities for People with Dementia
Gentle Hand Massage
A gentle hand massage can be an effective way to stimulate a person with dementia through a sense of touch. It is a simple yet effective activity that can be done at any time of day. This activity aims to use touch as an opportunity for comfort and connection.
The feeling of a loved one’s hand can help someone recall memories with that person, which can encourage conversation. Touching can also be used to communicate affection, as well as to calm agitation or anxiety, which is especially helpful if a loved one has limited mobility.
Visiting Familiar Locations
Your loved one might enjoy visiting familiar places such as the park where they used to play or the restaurant they used to frequent. When we visit familiar locations, our senses can be stimulated by the sights, sounds, and smells that we are accustomed to experiencing. This activity can help someone remember a place that they were fond of in their past.
Getting out of the house and into new environments can also be exciting for individuals dealing with memory loss. A trip away from home can give them a chance to meet new people and see new sights. Additionally, it can provide respite for their regular caretaker if you are not the primary caregiver.
Asking someone what they remember about specific places such as main streets, parks, longtime businesses, etc., can also help inspire further social interaction. Encourage them to reminisce about past visits or events that happened there.
Reading Out Loud
Reading out loud is gaining popularity as a way to stimulate the brain, improve memory and encourage social interaction. Reading aloud to a patient with dementia can be done for any length of time: for just one page or an entire book.
Unlike television or other electronic entertainment, reading involves more interaction between people. It can also offer a sense of escapism or satisfy a craving for nostalgia. A book that covers a period of time that they lived through might inspire memories and encourage further discussion.
Listening to Music
Music is a powerful tool for stimulating the mind. It can be used to help someone recall memories from the past, such as songs they used to sing or dance to. It can also help create a more relaxing or comfortable environment in the present. You can play the music they enjoy or ask them to pick songs they enjoy listening to.
If they have difficulty choosing songs on their own, you could point out certain artists or genres of music that you know they like and then let them choose from those options. You can also sing or dance with them if they can participate in these activities. You can play music on a television or handheld screen for added visual stimulation.
Create Scented Trinkets
The sense of smell is deeply linked to memory and emotion. Scented trinkets are a great way to stimulate the senses and encourage memory recall. These can include items like perfumes, spices, or other sources of pleasant aromas. They may also help boost mood and provide a sense of comfort.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts can challenge seniors with dementia in many ways. They are fun to do alone, with another person, or in a group.
Guided projects create new challenges to follow specific instructions in a particular order. This activity helps seniors stay focused, both on the task at hand and their surroundings. For example, you could ask them to cut out shapes from construction paper or paste sequins onto pictures in a specific pattern.
Freeform projects encourage people to translate something they imagine into a physical representation. This activity helps seniors connect with their inner creativity and express themselves in new ways.
The act of painting also involves a combination of sight and motor functions. This can help people experiencing physical symptoms of dementia practice focusing and honing their fine motor movements while concentrating on a fun and creative task.
Organizing and Sorting
Organizing and sorting objects can help stimulate organizational functions in the brain and senses of vision and touch. Sorting things like knick-knacks, laundry, dishware, and other simple objects can help keep basic cognitive functions operating healthily and create a sense of accomplishment when a part of their living space becomes tidy and organized.
Cooking and Baking
Cooking is one of the best activities for people with dementia. Cooking and baking encourage touch, smell, taste, and sight. If you know that your loved one enjoys certain types of food, why not try making some of their favorite dishes together? If you are unsure what those are, you can always ask them what they would like to make or try.
You can have them help you cook or get them involved in the cooking process by giving them simple tasks like chopping vegetables or stirring sauces. After completing their task, they will feel a sense of accomplishment and you can enjoy your creation together. For seniors that may have difficulty remembering or concentrating, make sure that you watch sources of heat and turn them off once they are no longer in use to avoid any potential fires.
Keep Your Loved One Engaged at Shaker Place
At Shaker Place, we know that the best way to keep your loved ones engaged and stimulated is to give them something to look forward to. That’s why we offer various memory care services and a comfortable, spacious environment to encourage them to participate in regular social activities.
To learn more about how we can help your family member maintain their independence for as long as possible, please schedule a tour today!