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Managing Alzheimer’s with Sensory Stimulation

Written by Stannah at 10-04-2017

Discovering an elderly loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, or another form of Dementia, can be a difficult concept to comprehend. According to Charles Scerri, a specialist in Dementia Studies at the Univesity of Malta, there are currently 7,000 people suffering from dementia in Malta and this number is expected to go up to 13,000 by 2050.

Sensory stimulation triggers memories and emotions in seniors suffering from cognitive decline through the arousal of one or more senses with everyday objects. The goal of this stimulation is to invoke positive feelings and allow these seniors to reconnect with their loved ones and the world around them.

Training your brain is helpful for everyone.

Alzheimers.net states that sensory stimulation allows seniors to feel relaxed and safe and provides a means for self-expression. For example, a photo or piece of art can reintroduce a certain memory. An Alzheimer’s patient who no longer speaks, may become suddenly inspired to pick up a pencil and communicate their feelings through personal works of art.

By providing enjoyment to seniors, sensory stimulation is designed to reduce anxiety and depression. This process can improve mood and self-esteem while also arousing an increase in social interaction. Sensory stimulation is typically performed by therapists as many Alzheimer’s patients reside in assisted living facilities. However, strong involvement from a caregiver or loved one can help elicit a recall of positive memories and provide a sense of purpose.

What Activities are best for Sensory Stimulation?

The best forms of sensory stimulation are generally linked to interests your elderly loved one had prior to their diagnosis. Reinvigorating these memories and cognitive functions can help them develop a connection to everyday life.

Zest provides some sensory stimulation activities for Alzheimer’s patients:

Smell:

  • Facilitate delicious food smells with cooking and baking, such as coffee brewing or fresh-baked bread as it may stimulate appetite in addition to fond memories
  • Have them try out flower arranging with a few of your elderly loved one’s favourite flowers
  • Try out aromatherapy for a fun way to identify
  • Try out aromatherapy for a fun way to identify

Taste:

  • Arouse discussion during meals by asking questions such as “Is it salty or sweet?” or “Is this something you would eat again?”
  • Provide snacks and treats that your elderly loved one has enjoyed since their youth
  • Try food and drink tastings to provide a wide range of taste experiences in a single setting

Sounds:

  • Encourage singalongs with your elderly loved one
  • Play music from the generation they grew up in and be sure to include favourite artists or songs
  • Offer continual background noise such as sounds of nature or classical music

Touch:

  • Create a “sensory box” filled with personalized items and mementos that are treasured by your elderly loved one or toys specifically designed for sensory stimulation
  • If your elderly loved one enjoys pets, a visit with a cat or dog provides ideal touch sensory stimulation that may also elicit cherished memories of an old pet
  • Simple physical contact such as hand massages or hugging can also alert senses and invoke positive feelings

Sight:

  • Adorn the living facility of your elderly loved one with photos, pictures or decorations associated with particular seasons or holidays as it will provide a positive atmosphere and help your elderly loved one reconnect with the current state of the world around them
  • Use colours that are considered calming such as green, pink or blue when decorating
  • Provide DVDs of your elderly loved one’s favourite movies or TV shows, as well as classics from their era

Witnessing improvements in the cognitive functions of an elderly loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can bring about overwhelming joy. However, as a caregiver, you must not let these emotions provide an illusion of safety.

Alzheimer’s and dementia can affect balance and increase the risk of falling, particularly in their early stages when your elderly loved one may still be living in their own home. A Stannah Stairlift allows you to centre your focus on generating positive results through sensory stimulation by offering you peace of mind knowing that your elderly loved one is navigating their home safely and independently.