Five Senses: Care for Those with Dementia

Senior Senses Flowers Smelling

Caring for someone with dementia can be a challenging experience. You want the best care for your loved one and you want to give them the best quality of life possible. Understanding what causes dementia, how it affects your loved one, and what to do to best provide them with adequate care is a very important first step. The five senses can play a big role in quality care.

Dementia is an umbrella term to describe a group of symptoms that affects various parts of the brain relating to memory, social interaction, and thinking abilities. Dementia is complex. It can damage nerve cells in the brain and, depending on the area it affects, can vastly alter the personality and day-to-day living ability of an individual.

While memory loss plays a major part in the degradation of the brain, due to symptoms of dementia, the five senses can often be overlooked. Our five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste, play a very active role in our daily lifestyle. The depletion of any of these senses can result in a complete change in the individual’s life.

It is estimated that by 2025, 34 million people in the United States will suffer from some form of dementia. Having an effective form of treatment that either reduces or diminishes dementia symptoms, or increases quality of life is a crucial task to ensure that people can have the best possible life.

Sensory stimulation is a simple, yet effective, way to make life a little easier for those suffering from dementia. It is the use and manipulation of common, everyday items to awake the brains neural plasticity mechanisms, or what your brain has learned in the early stages of childhood. Since the 1960’s European countries have been using sensory stimulation to try and treat various forms of learning disabilities. This treatment has also shown great promise for those suffering from the various forms of dementia.

By using and manipulating various items, such as a ball, the brain unlocks memories and encourages responses from those afflicted. Using just one object, as well as only focusing on one sense at a time, the brain can be excited into remembrance that may stimulate a memory or response.

Using everyday items, like common foods that a loved one may enjoy, could invoke a reaction that would otherwise not come about. Items that are common, but not so familiar to the individual may give a bigger reaction. Things like a seashell could suddenly bring about the memory of a beach trip, or something like a pine cone could spur a memory of a long-ago camping trip. These items, and more, can be used to stimulate the touch sense. The touch sense can be a powerful sense. Try taking a heavy-duty Ziploc bag and filing it with hair gel, vegetable oil, and small trinkets. Sensory bags like this can work wonders for your loved one.

While there may not be anything wrong with an individual’s eyes, dementia’s effects can sometimes hinder the brains ability to interpret the image that they are seeing. Something as simple as adding bright photos to various items might make the difference between recognizing the items, or not.

Your personal sense of taste can be affected for various reasons, like a cold or stuffy nose. Those suffering from dementia may also have a diminished sense of taste. A fun blindfolded (or just eyes closed) taste test can be a day changing experience. Try foods or drinks that are common to the individual and not too complex. Foods like toast, or chips, or whatever is more familiar to the person. This lack of sense of taste and altered cognitive ability can cause issues when hazardous products, like household chemicals, are left unlocked and unattended. A simple solution can be to just have them locked or out of reach.

Listening to music that is familiar to an individual can be a wonderful experience. Try also reading to your loved one, especially if they have a favorite book or magazine.

At Bonaventure, your loved one is a unique individual with a complex lifetime of experiences. We ensure that our residents, with all forms of dementia, receive the best care possible. Using sensory techniques we are able to provide a unique and five-star quality of life that you expect. Each member of our team is handpicked, and receives ongoing training, to ensure the support of your loved one is always top notch. Utilizing all the senses in our care, Bonaventure is able to give your loved one an experience that puts us miles ahead of any other senior living community.

Both the Bonaventure Senior living Twitter and Facebook have a ton of information related to dementia and other forms of cognitive impairment, along with other exciting content.

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