Sensory Activity Ideas for People with Dementia
Simple sensory activities that you can do with your loved one, can be an effective way to reduce anxiety and improve your quality of time together.
Seeing a loved one change because of dementia can be very challenging for carers. As a carer, you may find it difficult to relate, communicate, or even enjoy your time with your loved one.
It’s common for dementia patients to be agitated and confused. To help calm and soothe them during your time together, consider engaging in therapy through sensory activities, which is an effective way to reduce anxiety and comfort your loved one.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at sensory therapy and some simple sensory activities you can do together with your loved ones.
The science behind sensory therapy is simple. Our brain functions using a complex network of electrical impulses, which respond to internal and external stimulation. Stimulation is crucial in keeping the brain engaged and active, as brain scans show that areas of the brain light up when exposed to various sensory stimulation.
Dementia patients often experience reduced electrical brain stimulation, which affects their memories, speech, and movement. To help them regain their ability to interact with their environment, they need to actively stimulate their senses through sensory therapy.
Sensory therapy is the process of using everyday objects, sounds, and even food to help awaken their senses. It is a great form of rehabilitative activity that can help seniors express themselves and even generate pleasant memories and emotions.
According to studies, sensory therapy can help improve a patient’s dementia-specific issues such as communication difficulties. It also helps keep them calm, increase their social engagement, and helps them stay alert and focused.
But perhaps the best part of sensory therapy is how accessible it is for carers. You can create sensory stimuli through everyday objects such as flowers, books, and even sand – making it an easy (and cost-effective!) exercise that you can do on your own.
So if you’re keen to try sensory therapy with a senior, here are some short and easy activities that you could consider doing.
Honestly, who doesn’t love popping bubble wrap? Studies show that popping bubble wrap can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and it’s one of the simplest sensory activities that you can give to your loved one.
So the next time you get bubble wraps in your delivery package, bring them to your loved one to pop instead of throwing them away. If you can’t get bubble wrap from your delivery packages, you can consider purchasing them in an office supply store like Officeworks or Bunnings.
A fidget toy is another functional object that helps with sensory therapy. These toys use touch, feel, and repetitive movements to help seniors focus their attention on a particular object or activity. It also keeps their mind and hands occupied – which can calm their anxiety and nerves.
A fidget spinner is a popular example of a fidget toy, but there are other objects such as fidget widgets and fidget blankets to keep your loved one busy. For a truly DIY experience, you can easily make your own fidget box with zippers, old keys in a keyring, and wind-up toys.
Art therapy has been known to improve dementia patients’ mood and cognitive function, even after the art session has long finished. It can help them utilise their senses of vision and touch by mixing colours and practising different strokes.
To do this, you can ask your loved one to practice their colours or strokes on a piece of paper, and tell them to experiment with different colours. Creating art can keep them busy with movement and stimulate their sense of sight once they see the end product.
However, it’s important to understand that your loved one may not be capable of creating ‘perfect’ art, and that’s okay. Remind yourself that it’s not the result, but the process, that’s important. You could also consider using larger rolls of butcher paper instead of smaller canvases to avoid messes.
Creating a memory box is a great way to help spark your loved one’s memory and job their senses. For an easy way to do this, you could fill a small shoebox with sentimental items such as family photos, memorabilia, and any other items that would make your loved one hold it and smile.
Having a memory box with sensory items is excellent for a loved one who is struggling to remember their past. To make it extra special, you could go through each item with them individually and chat about what it means to them.
If your loved one loves music, then music therapy is a great way to stimulate their hearing senses. Music therapy is known to improve the cognitive functions of dementia patients, along with their quality of life.
So the next time you are with your loved one, try listening to a song together. Whether it’s from an artist they admired or a special song from their wedding, you may be able to improve their mood and yours as well! You could even play an instrument together if you want, or ask them to stimulate a drumming action with a hard surface or an object.
For dementia patients with a fondness for animals, why not consider bringing a cute furry friend to visit one day? Interacting with an animal can trigger many senses, such as vision, touch, and smell. In fact, your loved one may find the texture of fur and feathers highly therapeutic.
Animals can bring a sense of calmness and warmth, and it’s a great form of sensory activity. However, if your loved one is in an aged care home, you should check if you can bring animals into the home.
If your loved one used to enjoy knitting or crocheting in the past, then it’s a great idea to reintroduce it as a sensory activity for them. Knitting is known to calm anxiety and stress, and it’s a great repetitive movement that can stimulate touch and sight.
To do this, prepare an old cloth with large needles and threads for your loved one to use. You could also consider getting crochet sets with bold coloured yarns to brighten up their room. Even if they are unable to create a perfect shape, they would still enjoy the calming repetitive movement.
Finding sensory activities to do with your loved one is not difficult, and with a bit of creativity, you may be able to lift their moods and ease their anxieties.
Care About helps carers find the proper care for their loved ones and navigate the various available care options. For experienced help in finding care providers, contact our team for a personalised discussion.