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Proprioception input for people with dementia

This system is activated by muscles activity that tells us where our body is in space and how they are moving. It helps to understand body awareness.

Without this system we find it hard to engage in basic task. This is because the proprioception system provides foundations for higher level skills achievement.

Ask yourself, can you stand with one foot on a pillow; eyes closed and say the alphabet backwards? Or recite a quote while riding a rollercoaster? This is because our body needs to feel safe and stable. If our body does not know where it is in space, we cannot concentrate on complete daily living tasks.

In dementia and other neurodegenerative disease, proprioception system is particularly vulnerable.

So, what can we do?

  • Ensure people are wearing glasses, control glare and shadows in the environment (think about flooring and mirrors), and provide adequate lighting.

  • Ensure people are wearing hearing aids and reduce noise / help them to predict noise.

  • Ensure people are sitting correctly with their feet on the floor. Ensure there is no postural instability when sitting, for example, feet at 90 degrees, lateral support and sitting upright.

  • Ensure people are in an environment where the temperature comfortable.

  • Ensure people are not in pain. Make sure, change positioning frequently. It would be painful to sit in a chair all day.

  • Ensure the environment is adapted to provide the right sensory input. This includes, suitable equipment; flooring to be the same material (to help predictability); suitable activities.

  • Providing a wide range of experiences, promoting relaxation and stimulation. Massage and vibration, and different contrasts and textures draws on our sensory skills, especially vital in the later stages of dementia

If difficulties around the proprioception systems still continue challenge us, for example chewing on clothing, slumped in chair, fear when walking, resist to personal care and pacing (fidgeting / movement around), then a comprehensive assessment maybe helpful.

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