This month we acknowledge brain awareness to bring understanding and support to those suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia and brain diseases. And, there is no better time to do this, especially with today’s offering of supportive resources and sensory activities for dementia patients. Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Between 2000 and 2017 deaths from heart disease have decreased by 9% while deaths from Alzheimer's have increased by 145%. This means our heart health is improving while our brain health is taking a steep dive downwards. While researchers are scrambling to find solutions, those suffering from this debilitating disease require consistent quality care, support, and intervention.
Common Traits of Alzheimer's
According to the National Institute on Aging, common personality changes for those diagnosed with Alzheimer's are forgetfulness, getting upset, depression, worry, pacing, hiding things, hitting, or misunderstanding. Other factors might be sadness, lack of personal awareness, poor hygiene, poor sleep habits and nutrition. Those living with Alzheimer's might also be highly sensitive to noise, sounds, sights, lights, smells, and other normal sensations.
What Role Does the Sensory System Play?
The brain is the headquarters of the sensory system. This system determines how we perceive our world and it is the brain through which that perception is interpreted and processed. For those challenged in this area, providing controlled yet effective sensory information may be of help, in the form of sensory activities for dementia patients. Let's take a look at some solutions that can benefit those with Alzheimer's.
Provide a Safe Space to Explore
A safe place for exploration, movement, activity, and engagement can be beneficial for those with Alzheimer's. Offering an activity room, for example, can allow for free, yet safe movement and exploration. A sensory room for dementia can offer a controlled multisensory experience that feels safe and comforting; one that is non-threatening, where environmental control is provided. Tools such as bubble tubes, fiber optics, and so on can be used to create just the right space for secure interaction. Using lighting, projectors, music, bubble tubes, sound, touch, scents, and vibration can awaken the senses and soothe the mind.
Stick to A Routine and Keep Things Simple
Less clutter means a clearer mind, and keeping things in order, regular, on routine, and simple can help minimize frustration for those living with Alzheimer's. Having a visual schedule up on a wall, keeping meals at the same time, and visits that are regular and frequent can help reduce anxiety and stress. If you live far away, a phone call at the same time each day can reassure someone with a challenged sensory system. We all like routine, and most of us crave simplicity, but those diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's are in particular need of regularly scheduled activities, check-ups, sessions, visits, and meals.
Keep Feelings In Check
When it comes to emotional and social intelligence, those living with Alzheimer's' can feel particularly challenged and become easily frustrated, sad, or depressed. Reassurance, holding your own frustrations, and even a bit of humor can go a long way for all parties involved. Try focusing on feelings (how do you feel?) as opposed to facts (what did you do?) to reduce outbursts and a downward spiral for everyone involved.
We know that Alzheimer's has a long road ahead, but with proper care, attention, and respect, we can offer those living with Alzheimer's a good quality of life that perhaps might just impact those of us providing it as well.
If you're interested in setting up a multisensory environment in a facility that offers memory, Alzheimer's, or dementia care, check out these 10 recommended sensory products for dementia: