In light of September being World Alzheimer's Month, we wanted to help you discover meaningful activities for dementia patients and the benefits of sensory stimulation for those with dementia.
Sensory activities for dementia patients can play an important part in helping with dementia symptoms as the brain responds to different types of stimulation. Research has shown that sensory stimulation through sensory products and activities is linked to immediate positive effects on the mood and behaviours of people with Dementia.
What is sensory stimulation?
Sensory stimulation is the activation of the five core senses, either as a combination of a few or individually.
For people with dementia, the five core senses can deteriorate, which can lead to confusion. Therefore, the benefits of sensory stimulation can be great. By activating sensory stimulation, it can aid in improving concentration, alertness, self-confidence and increase social interaction by focusing on these five senses.
For someone with dementia to get involved with an activity, it's important to keep the environment appealing so that they want to engage with it. In return, the individual enjoys the benefits of sensory stimulation, whether outside or inside.
Here, we share 15 meaningful activities for dementia patients which can be enjoyed indoors, either individually or as a group, to help with dementia symptom relief. Whilst undertaking activities as a group, be mindful that some may enjoy the activity more than others and to stop the activity if anyone becomes distressed.
Playing natural, calming sounds like the sounds of waterfalls and birds can help trigger memories for people with dementia, and have been said to enhance their mood and have relaxing properties. Playing this music either on its own or in the background whilst enjoying another activity, such as reading, will be beneficial.
It's important to remember to enjoy these sounds at a controlled volume; .as loud sounds can be frustrating and agitating to people with dementia.
An easy indoor activity for dementia patients is to play the music that you know will be familiar to them. This music should be of great comfort for people going through conditions associated with memory loss, compared to modern music. Encouraging the singing of a familiar song can improve memory as well as being a fun and engaging activity for all. Be considerate to keep this music at a reasonable level.
Watching old classics and past favourite films can help to improve cognition and trigger memories. Watching an old film, that's from a time before the individual had dementia symptoms is one of the simplest sensory activities for dementia there is, but can have a great effect.
A great pass time is to ask the individual with dementia about their past. Talking about the long-term past is useful for understanding what they can remember and if there are any periods which are missing. By going through photographs from their life and making a photo album, to talking about old movies or music which has been popular throughout their life, may make for meaningful conversation. Alternatively, if there's a specific photo where the individual is eating or drinking something in particular, then getting them to eat or drink that in the present day whilst looking at the photo could be a meaningful activity for dementia patients, and help to explore their memories.
For someone with dementia, exercising can sometimes be difficult. But trying different forms of exercise, like dancing to memorable music, yoga or beanbag throwing can be a fun activity to do, especially as a group. There are also plenty of chair exercises and stretches to do whilst sat down.
A hand massage using very light pressure can be both relaxing and stimulating for dementia patients to alleviate any anxiety. Be sure to use a gentle touch.
Being around calm animals has mood-enhancing effects which can be very effective when it comes to sensory stimulation of dementia patients. For instance, stroking smaller animals like rabbits and guinea pigs to larger animals like dogs.
As many dementia patients suffer from interrupted sleep, redecorating the room with calming and soothing colours could help them feel calmer at night. Try and incorporate the opinion of the patient as much as possible, to make them feel part of the activity. You can start the process by giving them a choice of calm colours to choose from, so they can make the decision themselves.
Additionally, a multi-sensory calming room reduces anxiety to create an effortlessly tranquil room. The Zoladz calming sensory room is designed for those with dementia in mind, through seven features such as the LED bubble tube bedside cabinet and Aurora LED projector bundle.
If problems are occurring in the night, then installing a sensory ceiling is a great option for ensuring calm and stimulation at the same time. Enjoying and taking in the projections on the ceiling acts as a great bedtime activity to relieve stress and anxiety.
For those dementia patients who may have lost their verbal ability, being able to express themselves is very important, and art is a creative and fun way you can practise this. You can even organise a painting class and tailor the content around the patients participating, to make the experience more engaging for them. Creating art will not only boost their wellbeing, but it's also a fun and physical activity.
Fragrances can be so powerful for people with dementia and open a gateway for memories to resurface. Diffusing essential oils or using aromatherapy products with scents such as lavender, peppermint, rosemary and bergamot can be one way to relax and trigger memories simultaneously.
The sense of smell can take us back to a specific moment in time or memory. To try and stimulate memories in an engaging format, you could try using food smells through the 'guess the scent' game, as a fun way to try and trigger memories with familiar smells. 'Guess the scent' would be great to play in a socialised group with smells like coffee, mint, baby powder and freshly baked bread. However, be mindful to stop the game if it becomes too frustrating or upsetting for some players.
Although there is no concrete evidence suggesting that foods like turmeric can alleviate signs of dementia, distinctive flavours such as spices can be used to trigger memories. Other flavours to try include berries, coconut, and different teas.
Indoor gardening activities for dementia patients can include flower arranging and growing herbs indoors. Growing herbs such as mint indoors will also help with the individual remembering certain smells or a memory associated with that smell.
Fresh flowers can help by being a visual reminder as well as bringing back memories through their scent; it's a fun and light activity to help with sensory stimulation for dementia patients.
Board games, card games or puzzles are great for stimulation and can be very fun when played individually or as a group. Another way for effective stimulation is to make your own board or card game up surrounding a specific topic. For instance, with winter approaching you could create a game like 'snap' and print or draw photos to do with autumn and winter, whether that's items of clothing or photos to do with holidays like Halloween.
A sensory room for dementia patients can be extremely useful and effective to help with dementia symptoms. An immersive sensory room experience has many benefits of sensory stimulation. A sensory room can stimulate mood changes, cognition and overall wellbeing for people with dementia. Sensory rooms are designed specifically for relaxation and reminiscing, covering many types of sensory therapy, including visual, tactile and auditory, through the sensory products that feature in a sensory room. For example:
We hope you have enjoyed these 15 best indoor activities to do with individuals with dementia. There really is something for everyone, especially with so many types of sensory rooms available.
Experia ensures that spaces are designed entirely around the user in question with a bespoke designed sensory room. For more information on our sensory rooms, explore our blog post on the benefits of sensory rooms and what a sensory room is used for.
If you require any further information on dementia or sensory products to help with the symptoms, then please contact our specialist team at Experia who will be happy to help with any queries, you may have on the topic.