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Getting it right: The importance of sensory stimulation work in dementia

I have recently noticed a trend of people discussing the use of multi-sensory stimulation for people with dementia, but no-one has discussed the importance to why we must take a sensory approach.

As explained in my previous blogs, professionals have recognised seven sensory systems; Smell (Olfactory), Taste (Gustatory), Touch (Tactile), Hearing (Auditory), Vision (Visual), Movement (Vestibular) and Body Awareness (Proprioception). When our sensory systems work well together we are able to function and participate in the activities we need to do, such as get out of bed, cook dinner and walk to the shops.

For people with dementia, they tend not to use their sensory systems in the same way as they did when they were younger. Getting out of bed maybe difficult because muscles are not as strong; cooking dinner maybe challenging because of memory and walking out in the community maybe hard because of energy levels. Therefore, the aging process effects how we use our sensory system, sometimes leading us to feel sensory deprived. Furthermore, the natural process of dementia means people have marked difficulties with receiving, understanding and responding to environmental stimuli.

According to literature (, sensory deprivation in dementia can increase agitation and confusion. So, it could be argued that professionals should be offering training and advise to care home around the use of multi-sensory environment. Especially when we need to note that there is a fine balance between sensory stimulation and sensory overload. Too much sensation could have adverse effects on someone with dementia.

Gentle Stimulation Activities

Using sensory equipment to enhance one or two sensory system can allow someone with dementia to process and understanding the sensation. For example using touch by giving a hand massage. We sell a number of sensory items to meet the needs of someone with dementia in our shop. Coming soon we have an e-book available with sensory games and activities.

Gentle movement and body awareness activities are great for someone with dementia. As explained in previous blogs vestibular and proprioception need to be activated in the right way in order to do an activity. Activities such as rolling a ball over someone; gentle exercise and stretches or throwing and catching (seated if required) is a great way to start to move the body. You could use a Tactile Ball (available in our shops) as the bump on the ball gives it a textured surface making it tactilely pleasing.

The key to get sensory stimulation right in dementia is not to over whelm and bombard someone with lots of colours, lights, movements, touch, smells and sounds. Think about one sensory system at a time. Think what activity I could do to stimulation that sense.

Coming soon we have an e-book available with sensory games and activities ideal for people with dementia.

Feel free to consult or contact us, to discuss how we can help you, plus we have some low cost training on stimulating activities, helpful for activity co-ordintors.

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