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Sensory Activities for Parents with Dementia

Close-up of person making cake

Keeping your parent with dementia engaged in their daily activities is one of the best ways to ensure their long term quality of life. For those dealing with dementia, anxiety can be a daily struggle. Sensory therapy can be a way of helping to relieve some of that anxiety.

Here are just a few sample activities covering the five senses that you may want to try with your parent or loved one:

1. Visual stimulation

Give the person with dementia positive visual experiences by creating a photo wall or making a collage of photos of loved ones. You may also consider scrapbooking old photos into new albums as a way to enjoy old pictures and getting a chance to discuss those memories.

You can also spend some time watching your loved one’s favorite movies. Just make sure they are lighthearted and have a plot that’s easy to follow to reduce confusion about the content.

2. Hearing stimulation

Depending on what your loved one enjoys, put on some favorite albums of theirs (singing along is always a great idea!). At other times, consider putting on some relaxing background sounds such as sounds of nature, ocean waves, etc. But do keep in mind that if your loved one suffers from hearing loss, these sounds may make it more difficult for them to participate in conversations.

3. Smell stimulation

It is often said that smell is the sense most closely tied to memory. Think about some scents that are familiar to your loved one and that remind them of their childhood or other significant moments in their life, and then see if you can recreate them.

4. Taste stimulation

Everyone has favorite foods — why not cook something your loved one enjoys, or, if you’ve feeling adventurous, try out a new recipe together? While those with dementia tend to value the familiar, you can try going to a new restaurant and trying a new kind of cuisine together, which is sure to be stimulating.

5. Touch stimulation

Tactile stimulation is a great way to become engaged in an activity. Consider getting your loved one to help with tasks around that house that use their sense of touch — helping out in the garden, kneading dough in the kitchen, or something similar. You can also do hands-on arts and crafts, like working with clay, finger painting, knitting, or other activities your loved one finds fun.

As you try out some of these activities, make note of which ones your loved one finds particularly engaging and try to do more activities like that one. Of course, for family caretakers who also have busy lives, sometimes it can be hard to coordinate any such engaging activities. If that’s the case, it may be time to consider getting a little extra help by signing up your loved one for part-time at-home care with a qualified health professional.

Need more ideas on what activities would be good for your parent or loved one with dementia? Reach out to us!

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