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Sensory stimulation for elderly people: how to get started

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Sensory stimulation for elderly people can help keep your loved one engaged and improve his or her overall quality of life.

Here, we'll introduce you to the concept of sensory stimulation for elderly people and give you some tips on how to get started.

What is sensory stimulation for elderly people?

Sensory stimulation is a broad concept, but it boils down to using a range of materials and activities that can help awaken your loved one's senses.

This technique has benefits for all. However, it can be especially beneficial for people who have a memory-related condition such as dementia, or people regaining their abilities after a stroke.

You can use sensory stimulation to introduce more variety to your loved one's day and help them use all their faculties. In many cases, this can also help transport them back to cherished past memories.

Ideas for getting started with sensory stimulation

These are some basic ideas and techniques for getting started with sensory stimulation:

Going outdoors

Sensory stimulation could be something as simple as taking your loved one out for a walk.

The sights, sounds and smells of the local area, the grass under their feet, and any social interactions they might have, can make a welcome change from their usual routine.

Utilising nostalgia

This technique can be especially potent when paired with an element of nostalgia.

With memory-related conditions such as dementia, it can often be easier for your loved one to recall actions and sensations that have been a part of their life for years.

Think about activities they enjoyed in the past, and which areas they're still able to engage with.

Here are some examples to get you started:

  • If they were a keen baker, they may enjoy the sensation of kneading dough.
  • If they were a musician, they may like to hear recordings of their instrument or even play a few notes.
  • If they loved gardening, they might welcome the texture and smell of plants or earth.

Combining senses

Combining multiple senses simultaneously can help your loved one get more from this technique.

One idea is to create a sensory collage. For example, if they enjoyed visiting the seaside, you could fill a tray with beach-related items, such as sand, shells and seaweed for them to touch.

Use this in tandem with a recording (audio or visual) of a beach setting, including familiar sounds such as waves lapping, people chatting and seagulls squawking.

Complete the collage by adding some coloured lights, to mirror the promenade in the evening.

Physical interaction

Physical interaction can play a welcome role in sensory stimulation activities.

Depending on what they're comfortable with, a gentle massage or just five minutes spent holding their hand might add to your loved one's day.

In some instances, pets and children can be incorporated. However, this should only be attempted with all the necessary support and express consent of your loved one.

Sensory stimulation can help re-open doors for your loved one. Use these ideas as a basic guide and consider speaking to an occupational therapist if you would like to find out more.

Learn more about how live-in care can help people with dementia stay active and engaged for longer by calling on the friendly team at The Good Care Group.

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