Using senses to reach dementia patients

Oftentimes our loved ones with dementia loose their ability to communicate with us the way they once did. This can make visiting difficult, since social visits consist of conversation. Below are some ideas you can try that don't have to involve a lot of talking.

The Power of Touch: Humans are programmed to be caring and compassionate. We are made to give and receive touch. Studies show that touch increases endorphins in our brains.  Gently rubbing your loved one's shoulders or holding her hand can bring comfort and security to someone with dementia. Just knowing that you are there and that you care is sometimes makes all the difference in their life.

The Power of Smell: Isn't it amazing how the smell of freshly cut grass or something cooking can evoke feelings and memories of times long ago? Many times someone with dementia can retain long-term memories from their youth and these scents can trigger them. Bringing things such as freshly baked bread, a vase of flowers, and/or herbs from the garden are some examples. Essential oils can also be used to stimulate the senses. Dab a little on a piece of cloth and let your loved one take a whiff! 

The Power of Sight: I am a big fan of memory books. These can be made by using old photographs, newspaper clippings, etc. from your loved one's past. It is always fun to look through during visits. Perhaps it will even stimulate some memories from your loved one that lead to some conversation. If not, it gives you something to talk about while flipping through the pages. 

Kristi Vaughn

I am a Licensed Social Worker and owner of Adult Comfort Care: A Person Centered in-home assisted living resource for seniors and their families.  We serve Western Cuyahoga County.

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Volume 6, Issue 10, Posted 9:58 AM, 05.13.2014