Sensory Stimulation to Engage Alzheimer’s Patients
Sensory stimulation activities are designed to arouse one or more of the five senses; sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell. Photographs, sounds, textures, foods, and scents can evoke positive feelings and may help people living with memory loss recall special memories from their past. Activity directors and in-home caregivers can provide sensory stimulation throughout the day in activity programming or as part of a daily routine.
Benefits of Sensory Stimulation
The benefits of sensory stimulation may include an improved mood and self-esteem as well as provide increased social interaction and engagement. In addition, the person with Alzheimer’s disease may enjoy a greater degree of relaxation and creativity, all of which enhance the overall quality of life.
Delight the Senses
Sensory stimulation can be used in group or one-on-one activities. Sensory experiences are best based on life experiences, cultural backgrounds, or individual interests. Sensory items can also represent something meaningful from an individual’s life story. One or more senses may be stimulated during an activity as determined by the person’s level of functioning and response.
Often, group activities are designed using a theme. Activity directors and family members may create “sensory boxes” or “sensory kits” related to topics which can include: holidays, the seasons, relaxation, nature, cooking, or animals. In addition, several good sensory stimulation information can be found on Pinterest boards.
Creative Forecasting, a monthly magazine for Activity and Recreation Professionals, features a monthly column, “Sensory Sensations” providing suggestions for stimulating each of the five senses. Past columns have covered themes that include: birthdays, canning and preserving, signs of spring, and summer fruits.
Cues for the Senses
Sight: picture books, photographs, artwork, the outdoors, short video clips
Sound: music, birds, audio clips, clapping, humming, poetry
Touch: gentle hand massage, sand, pets, dough, Twiddle Muffs, clay, seashells
Taste: ice cream, smoothies, sour candy, fresh fruit, cheese, gingerbread, hard-boiled eggs (quartered), favorite childhood foods
Smell: bread baking, fresh cut grass, perfume, flowers, baby powder, coffee
Conversations Starters and Sensory Stimulation
One goal for sensory stimulation is to evoke memories and provide an opportunity to initiate a conversation to share special memories. Questions designed to promote reminiscing may be incorporated into a sensory stimulation activity. Experiment with closed-ended (yes/no), open-ended, or “either/or” questions to prompt a dialogue.
Sensory stimulation is an important activity for a person living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Sensory experiences can make memories more vivid, detailed, emotional and personal. They can help provide a connection between a caregiver and the person living with memory loss. Wonderful stories can be recalled, shared, enjoyed, and chronicled.