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Sensory Activities To Calm Dementia Agitation

by | May 24, 2024 | Caregivers Support, Caregiving, Community, Dementia

Dementia agitation is a condition where one might feel irritable, more easily agitated, restless and even anxious which increases the tendency of one to move around or make repetitive movements. This behavioural syndrome affects people in different ways and can definitely be frustrating and concerning for family members and caregivers. 

However, rather than being frustrated at the situation, it is more important for caregivers and family members to understand the root causes and how to manage these conditions. Sensory stimulation is an avenue for dementia patients to express themselves and in the process, experience calmness. Sensory stimulation is essentially using different techniques to stimulate the 5 senses, namely sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch.

 

Sight

Our sense of sight is one of the most important and thus this can be one of the most useful stimuli. 

  • Creation of calm spaces: Colours play an important role in regulating emotions. The usage of calming colours promotes relaxation and can help a dementia patient feel more at ease. Check out colour therapy here
  • Walking down memory lane with old photographs: Reminisce the good old times by looking at old photographs together with dementia patients not only brings back memories of the old times but is also a way to stimulate the sight
  • Head outdoors: If possible, visiting nature sites or even simply heading out to nearby coffee shops, supermarkets can do wonders in calming agitation as these places might bring back feelings of comfort

 

Hearing

Listening to familiar sounds, tunes and voices are great ways to promote relaxation and calm dementia agitation.

  • Sounds of nature etc flowing water, rain, birds chirping can make one more relaxed and would be especially useful during agitation. Check out this playlist on nature sounds on Spotify
  • Simply playing their favourite music is a simple yet effective way of regulating the mood as the connection and liking taken for music can lead to mood uplift
  • Playing musical instruments or singing has also proven to be especially beneficial for patients with dementia and bodes well for emotional well-being

 

Taste

Taste is something that is very bespoke and really varies depending on the individual. Tasting foods can invoke emotions and memories associated with the food. When it is something to one’s liking, it can help to regulate emotions like how having our favourite food can put us in a better mood. 

  • Introduce new tastes and texture to one’s current diet. This introduces an element of surprise and can evoke positive emotions, calming aggression 
  • Enjoy favourite foods – who doesn’t get happy when eating their favourite foods! 

 

Smell

Scents are known to have calming effects which can regulate emotions and trigger specific memories associated with the scent. For patients with dementia, one way to try this out is by using aromatherapy and essential oils.

  • By adding diffusers, candles or air fresheners, these are easy and accessible ways to introduce scent into the home
  • One might have used a particular perfume during their younger days and an easy way would be to re-introduce this scent which may bring back fond memories. Generally being a better mood can help calm dementia agitation
  • Create or visit sensory gardens (Eg. Hort Park) with fragrant flowers or herbs
  • Visit cafes or bakeries to enjoy the smell and of course taste of freshly brewed coffee and bakes

 

Touch

Do not underestimate the power of physical touch – a simple touch like putting your hands over the hands of a loved one has the power to bring feelings of comfort and assurance. A firm touch can help to calm someone down and different types of touch stimulation has also been shown to improve wellbeing in persons with dementia

  • To help with fidgeting, fidget spinners and toys aids dementia patients as they can calm one down and are also good for attention and concentration
  • Exposure to different textures can stimulate the brain and bring about positive emotions – seashells, rocks, flower petals, sensory stress balls are all examples of items that can evoke positive emotions

Always keep in mind that there is no one size fits all solution – something that might work for one might make another react adversely. Take your time, be patient and you will eventually find something that works for you. 

 

Support for caregivers

Caregivers are often the ones that interact with the dementia patient the most and would be the most affected as such. This can often be distressing and if left unattended to, might lead to quicker caregiver burnout. Do not hesitate to reach out for help via caregiver networks and finding resources online that can help better manage the situation. Remember that you are never alone – always reach out if you need help.

About Growing Needs

About Growing Needs

Growing Needs grew out of our own encounters with caring for our aging parents and reflecting on the Growing Needs that we ourselves would face as we advance in years. We hope to build a community that will learn, share and contribute towards caring for the growing needs of our loved ones.

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