Spring is finally here, and with the weather turning warmer and plants beginning to bloom, there are many opportunities for sensory stimulation for people with memory issues. Read on to learn why sensory experiences are beneficial and to get inspiration on what you can do with your loved one throughout the season.
At Bethesda Gardens Loveland in Loveland, CO, we see firsthand how sensory experiences help our memory care residents, and there's significant scientific evidence to support these benefits. Research shows sensory stimulation can help people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia communicate better with caregivers and loved ones. Using sight, smell, sound, touch and taste can stimulate the mind and even stir memories of past experiences in some cases.
Many older adults with memory issues find sensory stimulation relaxing and soothing. As a result, sensory stimulation may ease stress and anxiety and reduce problematic behaviors. Overall, receiving ongoing sensory input can contribute to a better quality of life for seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Get into the spirit of the season by trying some of these sensory activities with your loved one.
Around Easter, you can often find tulips, lilies and hyacinths in pots for sale in stores and at farmers markets and roadside stands. Pick up a few in different colors and line them up on a table. Encourage your loved one to describe the colors and shapes of the flowers. They can touch the petals, the stems and the leaves and even dip their fingers in the soil in the pot. Then, have them lean in and breathe in the scent of each flower.
Take advantage of warmer temperatures by heading outside for a nature walk at the Benson Sculpture Garden or one of the area’s public parks like Derby Hill or Centennial. During your walk, ask your loved one what they see and point out some things you notice. Shift your focus to sound and talk about what you hear. Then, name the things you can smell. Stop and touch tree trunks, bushes and other things along the way. Bring a picnic basket and enjoy something tasty while comfortably seated on a bench or at a picnic table.
Now is a great time to start an herb container garden. Pick up some plastic pots, potting soil and herb seeds. Fill the pots partway with soil, add seeds and then water. Have your loved one do the work as much as possible, giving direction as needed. Let them run their fingers through the soil, splash water and touch the seeds as much as they desire. Once the work is done, choose a sunny spot for the pots outdoors or indoors.
Make checking on your herb garden part of your routine. Water when the soil feels dry and watch the herbs grow. Encourage your loved one to touch, smell and taste the herbs when you have enough to harvest.
Music is a great form of sensory stimulation, so put together a playlist of favorite tunes that celebrate the season. Here are a few you could include:
Sit quietly while the music plays, or give your loved one maracas to shake along with the beat. You can also get up and dance if the mood strikes you.
Baking together involves vision, smell, touch and hearing, and spring means there'll be plenty of apples and strawberries at the grocery store. Gather the ingredients and bake a pie together. Let your loved one remove stems from berries, roll out the dough, stir bowls and perform other tasks. When the pie is ready to enjoy, savor a piece together and spark a conversation about other sweet treats you’ve enjoyed together in the past.
Combine creative expression and a sensory experience into one fun activity with open air painting. Set up canvases on sturdy easels in a shady outdoor area. Give your loved one a paintbrush and water-based paints or nontoxic finger paints and encourage them to paint what they see. Join them in the fun, creating your own masterpiece. Once they dry, hang them somewhere as a special memory of the day.
When April showers keep you indoors, get the fun popping with an entertaining activity. Give your loved one some bubble wrap to press between their fingers. The sight, feel and sound can be a delight for the senses. You can also stock up on fidget toys with poppers they can push again and again. These items come in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors.
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