What is sensory stimulation?
Sensory stimulation is the activation of the different senses:
- auditory (hearing)
- tactile (touching)
- visual (seeing)
- olfactory (smelling)
- gustatory (tasting).
As the brain responds to different types of stimulation, sensory activities that are related to dementia patients can play an important part in helping with dementia symptoms. Research has shown that sensory stimulation through sensory products and activities, is linked to immediate positive effects on the mood and behaviours of people with dementia.
A sensory room for dementia
Before we discuss sensory activities, lets first discuss how useful and effective sensory rooms can be in order to help with dementia symptoms. An immersive sensory room experience can stimulate mood changes, cognition and overall wellbeing for people with dementia. Sensory rooms are designed specifically for relaxation and reminiscence, covering many types of sensory therapy including visual, tactile and auditory through the sensory products that feature in a sensory room such as:
There are so many types of sensory room available that there really is something for everyone, with Experia designing bespoke rooms to ensure that spaces are designed entirely around the user in question. For more information on our sensory rooms, read our blog post on the benefits of sensory rooms.
Examples of sensory for dementia activities
There are a number of sensory activities and creative support tools for dementia patients that you can use at home which can help to stimulate each of the senses. Here are a few examples below of some sensory activities that can help with dementia symptom relief:
Sounds including music, white noise, and natural sound effects such as waterfalls and birdsong have been said to enhance the mood and have relaxing properties for people with dementia.
Familiar music, singing, calming poetry, natural sounds and white noise can help trigger memories and be comforting for people going through conditions associated with memory loss. It is important to remember to enjoy these sounds at a controlled volume, as loud sounds can be frustrating and agitating to people with dementia.
Living with dementia can be an isolating and scary experience. Tactile stimulation can help alleviate anxiety and has mood-enhancing effects. Try a gentle hand massage or stroking calm and friendly pets. Or, you could introduce different textures such as sandpaper, pine cones, or a virtual beach to help with relaxation.
Visual stimulation can help improve sleep cycles and cognition, which is really beneficial for people with dementia who might have interrupted sleep and wander in the night. Some visual stimulation activities include light therapy, nostalgic and calming movies, or redecorating the room with soothing colours. If problems are occurring in the night, then installing a sensory ceiling is a great option for ensuring calm and stimulation at the same time.
If you’ve ever had a memory triggered by a familiar scent, you’ll understand that smells can activate grounded memories through reminiscence. Fragrances can be so powerful for people with dementia and open a gateway for memories to resurface. Diffusing essential oils or using aromatherapy products with scents such as lavender, peppermint, rosemary and bergamot can be one way to simultaneously relax and trigger memories.
Fresh flowers can also help by being a visual reminder as well as bringing back memories through their scent. You could try using food smells like coffee and freshly baked bread, or even try the ‘guess the scent’ game, although be mindful to stop if it becomes frustrating or upsetting.
Similarly to olfactory triggers, flavours can help people with dementia to reminisce. Although there is no concrete evidence suggesting that foods like turmeric can alleviate signs of dementia, distinctive flavours such as spices can be used to trigger memories. Other flavours to try include berries, coconut, and different teas. Again, you could try ‘guess the flavour’ as a game to try and add a fun element to the stimulation.
If you require any further information on dementia or sensory products to help with the symptoms, then please contact our specialist team at Experia who will be happy to help with any queries you may have on the topic.