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The Best Indoor Sensory Activities for Dementia

Written by on . Posted in Dementia, Sensory Equipment Discussed, Sensory Solutions
The Best Indoor Sensory Activities for Dementia
In light of September being World Alzheimer's Month, we want to help you discover meaningful sensory 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.

15 Best Indoor Sensory Activities for Dementia

There are several sensory activities and creative support tools for dementia patients that you can use at home or in a care home, which can help to stimulate each of the senses. 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; it’s important to be aware of individual needs and preferences, and never force anyone to participate in anything that they don’t enjoy.

1. Natural sounds and white noise
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. Natural sounds, either on their own or in the background whilst enjoying another activity, such as reading, can be highly beneficial to dementia patients.
It's important to remember to enjoy these sounds at a controlled volume, as loud or overwhelming sounds can be distressing or agitating to people with dementia.

2. Encouraging sing-along
One great indoor sensory activity for dementia patients is to play the music that you know will be familiar to them. This music can be a great comfort for people going through conditions associated with memory loss as it can inspire nostalgia or even trigger happy memories. Encouraging the singing of a familiar song can improve memory as well as being a fun and engaging activity for all. 
Sound and music therapy is a very common part of working with dementia for its positive effects.

3. Enjoy nostalgic films
Similarly to listening to older music, 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.
If you’re not sure which films would be best, ask the individual if there is anything they remember or would like to see. Otherwise, check out these suggestions from Dementia UK.

4. Reminisce about the past
Another sensory activity for dementia patients is to ask the individual with dementia about their life. Talking about the long-term past is useful for understanding what they can remember and if there are any periods which are missing. 
Whether you go through photographs from their life, talk about old movies or music which has been popular throughout their life or discuss key events (historical or personal), this activity may make for meaningful conversation. Try to tread carefully to avoid bringing up anything that might distress the individual.
Alternatively, if there's a specific photo where they are 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.

5. Get active
For someone with dementia, particularly as they get older, exercising can sometimes be difficult. But trying different forms of exercise, like dancing to memorable music, yoga or beanbag throwing can be a fun sensory activity for dementia patients, especially as a group. There are also plenty of chair exercises and stretches to do whilst sat down.
For more mobile individuals, a guided Tai Chi class is proven to help to improve short-term cognitive function in the early stages of dementia. 

6. Hand massages
A hand massage using very light pressure can be both relaxing and stimulating for dementia patients to alleviate anxiety. Some documented suggestions include gently pressing the palm or rubbing over the knuckles to reduce or even prevent agitation.

7. Pet therapy
Being around calm animals has mood-enhancing effects which can be very effective when it comes to sensory stimulation of dementia patients. Many different species can become therapy animals, from smaller animals like rabbits and guinea pigs to larger animals like dogs and even horses!
Animals used for therapy work are chosen largely for their temperament, to ensure they are calm and content while they work. Check out Pets as Therapy for more information.

8. Create a dementia-friendly bedroom
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 calming sensory room reduces anxiety to create an effortlessly tranquil space. The Zoladz calming sensory room for dementia is designed with dementia patients in mind, through seven features including the LED bubble tube bedside cabinet and Aurora LED projector bundle.

9. Sensory ceilings
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, and is particularly useful to those who might be bed-bound or those with reduced mobility.
A sensory ceiling is an often overlooked element of a sensory room for dementia, but it can really make a difference!

10. Art therapy
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 sensory activity for dementia patients.

11. Diffusing essential oils
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, while creating a soothing environment.

12. 'Guess the Scent'
The sense of smell is powerful and 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. This would be great to play in a socialised group with smells like coffee, mint, baby powder and freshly baked bread – simply ask the group if anyone recognises the scent! However, be mindful to stop the game if it becomes frustrating or upsetting for any players.
Distinctive flavours such as spices can be used to trigger memories. We offer a wide range of food-related aroma oils to try in our aroma generator, as well as some more general aroma oils that might spark some nostalgia.

13. Indoor gardening
Indoor gardening sensory activities for dementia patients can include flower arranging and growing herbs indoors. Growing herbs such as mint indoors can help with the individual remembering certain smells or a memory associated with the smell or taste.
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.

14. Boardgames, card games and puzzles
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.

15. Multi-sensory stimulation through sensory rooms
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 for dementia 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:

Benefits of Sensory Rooms for Dementia Patients

Sensory activities for dementia patients can aid in improving concentration, alertness, self-confidence and increase social interaction. In some cases, it has even been linked to improvements in cognitive function and memory.
In a world that can feel incredibly overwhelming, taking some time to engage in sensory activities can be a welcome retreat for those with dementia and can help them to engage with the world around them.

We hope you have enjoyed these 15 best sensory activities for dementia patients. There really is something for everyone, especially with so many types of sensory rooms for dementia 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.
If you require any further information on sensory activities for dementia patients or sensory products to help with the symptoms, then please contact our specialist team at Experia who will be happy to help you.