Sensory exploration and dementia

Throughout our lives our senses play an important part in creating memories, connecting with people and the environment around us, but did you know as we age our senses can decline? With this decline our connection with the world can become diminished and this can be even more prevalent for someone living with dementia. Here we will discuss the benefits of taking part in sensory exploring activities when living with dementia and why they are an integral part of dementia care. 

Benefits of Sensory Activities 

Sensory exploring activities are become increasingly more common as part of dementia care. Having been linked to showing improvements in mood, aiding in relaxation, encouraging socialisation and helping to spark memories it is easy to see why. With such a wide variety of care home activitiesand independent activities which involve sensory exploration, there is plenty to explore.

Reminiscence

One of the most commonly discussed affects of dementia is memory loss, and any activity which can help to spark memories would be hugely important. As most of our memories are linked to a place or a person, our senses can play a big part in helping to recall that memory, whether through the scent of a loved ones perfume, the sounds of the seaside heralding back to a family holiday or perhaps even the taste of a certain food. 

A brilliant activity which can help to spark memories whilst exploring the senses is to create a memory or reminiscence box. Filling the box with personal items such as photographs, ticket stubs, or even perfumes which you can then have the opportunity to go through with your loved one, can be brilliant for helping to recall memories and encourage conversation. Why not ask questions about each item and see if your loved one can recall the memories surrounding them? 

Social Connections

When living with dementia the ability to communicate effectively may diminish which can be highly frustrating and cause an increase in loneliness. It is highly important that as part of a balanced care system that socialisation is encouraged through a variety of different means and activities. 

A fantastic way to encourage socialisation as part of sensory exploring activity could be simply watching a familiar film in a group, then encouraging conversations surrounding memories of the film. Other examples could be going for a walk within nature and discussing the wildlife together or even listening to music together. 

Connect with Nature 

As our senses diminish, we can lose our connection to the world and begin to withdraw, which in turn can lead to lower moods and lack of socialisation. This can be especially common for those living with mobility restrictions or dementia, as difficulties in accessing the outdoors increase. It’s important that as part of dementia care that senses are explored in the natural environment to help rebuild or maintain these connections. 

A fantastic way to build connections whilst exploring the senses can be as simple as spending time in a safe space outdoors, where the sounds of wildlife and the feel of the fresh air can be highly relaxing.  For some getting out may not be as simple, or should the outdoors not be accessible due to weather restrictions there are also brilliant indoor activities which can help to rebuild connections. These include listening to nature or seasonal sounds, touching flowers or plants and providing complimentary scents such as cut grass or the seaside. 

Relaxation

Agitation and stress can be common in those living with dementia as cognitive changes affect mood and behaviours, and the difficulties in recalling memories or communicating cause frustration. There are however many dementia friendly activities which can help to calm and relax someone living with dementia whilst engaging the senses. 

Listening to soothing music or smelling familiar scents have been shown to encourage relaxation, whilst other activities such as visiting a local park and spending time outside are also highly beneficial. Remember when helping someone with dementia to relax, it is important to consider their likes and dislikes along with anything which may trigger further frustrations. 

By including sensory stimulating activities as part of dementia care there can be a huge variety of benefits. From reducing loneliness to improving mood or helping to recall memories. Why not consider different sensory stimulating activities with your loved one to help them live a balanced, active and healthy lifestyle.