The body needs exercise, and the mind needs stimulation. As Alzheimer’s can gradually wear down your senses, you develop a new need—a need for sensory stimulation. Staying engaged with the world can have significant benefits for patients with dementia. And many of the best ways to stimulate Alzheimer’s patients are much simpler than you might think.
Sensory Information in Disarray
Alzheimer’s can wear away at the senses. Smell is commonly among the first to become depressed. People often notice these problems long before Alzheimer’s is diagnosed. Taste and touch see decline as well—sometimes to the point of not being able to recognize temperature or pain.
A person with Alzheimer’s’ may have flawless eyesight and hearing and yet lose the ability to correctly interpret what they see and hear. It can lead to disorientation, confusion, agitation, over-stimulation, and the inability to recognize familiar things.
Alzheimer’s Sensory Stimulation
Decades of research has shown sensory stimulation has a positive effect on behavior and mood. Sensory stimulation is one of the most successful ways to improve the life of an Alzheimer’s patient that does not require prescription medication. It involves using ordinary objects to help engage the senses.
Practitioners have found that it usually works best with familiar objects that focus on a single sense, like flowers or a smooth wooden grain. It’s also better to use objects that aren’t usually in their environment.
Activities to Stimulate Alzheimer’s Patients
We can stimulate our senses in any number of ways. Consequently, it’s not terribly hard to find stimulating activities for Alzheimer’s patients. Having a few ideas about where to start can get you headed in the right direction.
- Provide a creative outlet. Few things stimulate the senses like the arts. Painting and knitting are common, but the arts offer something for everyone.
- Visiting a botanical garden. Home to an array of colorful flowers and lush greenery, botanical gardens are a great source of engaging sights and smells for the senses.
- Try cooking together. There are a number of pleasant sights, textures, and tastes you can experience while preparing food. Sticking to simpler recipes can minimize complexity and help keep things stress-free.
- Talk and read aloud with your loved one. Listening to voices and engaging in conversations can help stimulate hearing and memory.
- Play a game. Games with physical objects that can be handled are better than games without, and games with colorful pieces are preferable to games without.
- Try gardening. It’s a great stress-reliever that can bring a sense of accomplishment, which may be increasingly elusive to patients of Alzheimer’s.
Finding the Right Activity
Sensory stimulation may boost your loved one’s mood, self-esteem, and sense of well-being, but it’s important to select an activity that is appropriate for your loved one’s abilities. And that might change from day to day. Between the good days and bad days, you always have to be flexible with Alzheimer’s. With a little flexibility, the right stimulating activity may only be a short walk away.