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Multi-Sensory Environments in Elderly Care 

Many people begin to experience difficulties with their senses as they age. Individuals suffering from  dementia (or a related condition) may not experience enough sensory stimulation – which potentially causes a worsening of the confusion they are already experiencing. 


Yet, somebody who is no longer making correct sense of sensory stimuli can still experience pleasure (or discomfort) through various sensations. 



Benefits of Sensory Stimulation  

The positive benefits of stimulating the mind of an individual who has dementia are numerous:

Improved concept of self,
  • An increase in the desire to socialize
  • Ability to concentrate
  • Increased awareness.
  • Increased memories related to specific sensory experience (a wedding song, the smell of pie baking in the oven, photos of family when younger…)

Sensory Space for Seniors

A functional and inviting sensory room for a senior user should cater to their generation, special needs and limited movement abilities. As much as possible, items such as  bubble tubes, fibre optics and projection should be tied to activities that they understand and remember. Example might be: 

  • Inserting bubble tubes into a familiar piece of furniture, such as a wardrobe, or a pantry or even a grandfather clock. 
  • Using fibre optic harnesses to replicate the way the hands might untangle a spool of knitting wool. 
There are various ways to remove the clinical feel of a sensory room and make it part of a living area. 


Additionally, a Senior sensory room should include visual stimulation that triggers memories, such as photos of travel, important life events, family, friends and even previous homes. 

These, in turn, evoke warm and familiar feelings, even if the patient doesn’t fully make cognitive sense of the memory triggers.


Olfactory Stimulation 


Olfactory stimulation is known to be one of the greatest ways to bring forth memories of key life moments and experiences.

  •  essential oils can play an important role in creating certain emotional conditions. 
  • Ask family member to bring certain perfumes or other scented mementos
  • Tins or other closed items that contain a lingering sent, such as coffee or cookies

Smells can be strong, pleasant, comforting or relaxing – or all of the above and more.


Auditory Stimulation 

Auditory stimulation remains essential, even with those with hearing impairments. 

Tips for incorporating sound into a senior sensory room include 

  • sounds of nature such as birds or running water streams, 
  • period music
  •  singing alone or with peers
  •  a soft voiced speaker...

All are wonderful ways to incorporate sounds into a senior sensory room.

 Regardless of the chosen mode of sound, It is most important that caretakers ask the senior what they would enjoy listening to. Equally important is keeping the noise below a level that might make some individuals feel anxious or disturbed.

Tactile Stimulation 

Tactile Stimulation & Human touch are important for all humans - and an especially important communication tool for those who suffer from dementia.

 A handshake, a hug, or even holding hands can cause an unparalleled emotional response. Imagine what the following can do?

  • Gentle hand or arm massage
  • Combing or brushing hair
  • Sensory boards, fabric & materials
  • Spongy balls, sand or clay  - great for strengthening hands & fingers
  • Activity aprons that incorporate various materials and textures 

 

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