Dementia can cause a person to withdraw and become less receptive to taking part in activities, which can in turn lead to feelings of isolation and depression. It is vital that activities are encouraged for someone living with dementia, to help them become engaged in a meaningful and beneficial way. Sensory stimulating activities have a wealth of benefits for someone living with dementia. A simple sound or smell can evoke memories, spark conversations or calm someone from an agitated state, which is why it is important to explore a variety of sensory activities for dementia care. These can involve providing activities which involve one or more of the senses to evoke a spectrum of positivity.
Benefits of Sensory Activities for Dementia
Sensory activities are fantastic for triggering memories and eliciting positive feelings. A certain smell can take someone back to a time they remember fondly and listening to a specific song can draw on positive past emotions.
Using sensory stimulus which incite memories of the past is proved to have a positive effect on mood and the individual’s self-esteem. Confidence plays a big part in how a person feels, and by exploring a variety of sensory activities you can take that person back to a time when they felt both confident and happy.
Agitation can often occur when someone living with dementia becomes uncomfortable or overwhelmed, and is most common when the person is later in their dementia journey. Engaging someone who becomes agitated in sensory activities can have a positive and calming effect.
Activities designed to calm and reassure a person such as playing relaxing music or smelling a familiar scent will help reduce agitation. It is thought the combination of sight and sound can be soothing and relaxing, especially in a natural environment. Visiting a botanical garden, where the scent of the flowers and the visual stimuli combine, would have a positive influence on mood and reduce anxiety.
Effectively engaging the senses in a variety of activities can have profound impact on the ability to evoke memories. The senses play a huge part in our memories, whether it’s smelling a scent a loved one used to wear, hearing the sound of the ocean which reminds them of where they visited as a child, touching a certain material, or looking at old photographs, there are many different activities which can trigger memories. Storing things such as a loved one’s perfume in a sensory box is a brilliant way to keep items unique to that person to hand for reminiscence activities.
Implementing group activities, is a fantastic way to involve people who may be feeling lonely. An activity such as watching an older film together can spark conversation and improve mood and social skills. The act of watching something together explores the sight and sound senses in a social setting.
Someone who is living with dementia may not feel as connected to the world or other people as they used to. Orchestrating activities which insight the senses, such as playing audio of seasonal sounds and providing a scent such as freshly cut grass, will help them stay connected to the natural world and re-establish memories if they are unable to get out as much as they used to.
Sensory activities have a multitude of benefits for a person living with dementia, whether its improving cognitive functions, encouraging social participation, reminiscing, or improving communication. Sensory activities should be considered as part of someone’s care and should be utilized in both a group and individual setting.