People often take their sense of taste, touch, smell, sound and sight for granted. It is when the senses deteriorate with age that individuals gain a greater appreciation for them. For seniors with dementia, a gradual decline in the functions of senses is common, making sensory stimulation activities helpful.
How does dementia affect the senses?
Dementia is a disorder that is known to impact brain functions. Memory, thinking and problem-solving abilities progressively deteriorate. Dementia, however, affects the entire brain, which means that the senses will likely undergo gradual deterioration in seniors living with the disorder.
The five senses allow people to connect with their environment. But as hearing declines, a senior’s ability to communicate will be negatively affected. Practical, daily functions are also impacted. A senior who loses her hearing will not hear the doorbell, phone or television.
Distinct senses, like smell and taste, are linked and undergo changes in dementia patients. Someone without a strong sense of smell will not smell smoke from a house fire. A lack of taste can lead to the senior consuming spoiled food or putting inedible objects in her mouth.
The sense of touch is an important contributor to well-being. A senior whose sense of touch deteriorates will not be able to discern how hot is running tap water. Physical touch is also necessary for human interactions; its loss can lead to isolation and reduce a senior’s quality of life.
How does sensory stimulation help?
A senior with dementia can remain engaged with her environment through sensory stimulation therapy. Everyday objects can stimulate the senses and bring back positive memories and emotions. By arousing any of the five senses, the senior will experience improved mood, self-esteem and well-being.
Sensory stimulation helps dementia patients express themselves when they are unable to communicate using words. Common items, such as family photo albums or old books with antiquated smells, can trigger emotions, thereby encouraging emotions in and responses from the senior.
Creating sensory experiences requires the caregiver to sit near the senior, so that she is able to see and hear the caregiver. Upon presenting ordinary objects, allow the dementia patient to explore them. Talk about the objects in a way that triggers positive memories.
1. Stimulation via Hearing
Stimulating a senior’s sense of hearing can induce relaxation and cognition. Sounds can also enhance mood. Older individuals often have a hard time hearing, so it is important to adjust the level of the sounds for maximum benefit. Connect with a senior’s sense of hearing using technology.
Consider playing natural sounds, like waves crashing on a beach or a gentle rainforest rainfall, from a smartphone. Or, turn on the radio to play classical music or favorite songs from the senior’s youth. Caregivers may recite poetry or sing to connect with the senior and trigger auditory senses.
2. Stimulation via Touch
Through an awareness of texture and touch, a senior will benefit. Tactile stimulation is known to increase the well-being of dementia patients. Holding an object stimulates brain paths; thousands of nerve receptors in the fingers are stimulated, which in turn stimulates the brain.
Stimulate a senior’s sense of touch by offering a bowl of sand with seashells, stones and balls. A virtual beach can trigger fond memories in the senior. Alternate routes to tactile stimulation include offering pine cones, sandpaper or plastic fruits.
3. Stimulation via Sight
Visual processes are adversely affected in seniors living with dementia. Visual therapies may be successfully used to stimulate the sense of sight. Light therapy, for instance, is known to reduce wandering, improve sleep cycles and enhance cognitive and behavioral functioning.
Lift a senior’s spirit, while simultaneously stimulating the senses, by placing photos of loved ones in the surrounding environment. Watch favorite movies with easy-to-follow plots; doing so can help the senior recollect some scenes. Movies add the dual benefit of auditory stimulation.
4. Stimulation via Smell
Strong scents can instantly transport a senior to a memorable time or immediately connect the individual to specific occasions in the past. Trigger these fond memories using olfactory stimulation. Aromatherapy using essential oils is one way to deliver healing properties.
Essential oils, like lavender, are known for their calming effects. Peppermint is used to stimulate the brain and calm nerves. Bergamot elevates the mood and relieves mild anxiety. Alternately, ignite a scent diffuser with an aroma of sun tan oil. Scented candles may also be used in olfactory stimulation.
5. Stimulation via Taste
Eating favorite foods can help a senior recall a memorable past event. For example, a senior who traveled to the seaside as a child will welcome sharing a bowl of clam chowder with a caregiver or family member. Iced tea can take a senior back to a carefree childhood.
Seniors living with dementia interact differently with the world around them. Their challenges influence how they communicate, behave and relate to others. Families who enlist the help of dementia caregivers from Assisting Hands Home Care give their loved ones a chance to flourish.
Memory care provided by Assisting Hands Home Care is trusted by countless families and their elderly loved ones. Our dementia caregivers are qualified and trained to handle the various symptoms of dementia in the most compassionate manner. We ensure the safety and well-being of care recipients.
Forgetfulness is a common symptom of dementia that our caregivers recognize. When dementia patients wander, our skilled caregivers gently lead the senior to a safe place; we also monitor them closely. We recognize that agitation is a symptom of the disorder and help the senior calm down.
Assisting Hands Home Care provides comprehensive dementia care services that include support with the activities of daily living, from personal hygiene to transportation to medication reminders. We also build fulfilling relationships with care recipients to prevent senior isolation and loneliness.
Our in-home memory care services are among the most reputable in the area. If your elderly loved one lives in Hinsdale, Downers Grove, La Grange, Illinois or nearby Cook or DuPage counties, consult Assisting Hands Home Care for reliable home care. We’ll develop a flexible care plan to meet your loved one’s care needs.