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Sensory Therapy For Memory Disorders

Holding hands is an essential form of sensory therapy for dementia

Our senses connect our minds to the world around us. The way we see, smell, hear, taste and feel allows us to understand our environment and properly engage with others. For individuals living with dementia, experiencing difficulties with the senses becomes common, especially as the condition progresses. This is why it becomes important to stimulate the senses of these individuals as a means of improving their overall quality of life.

The History of Sensory Therapy for Dementia

Sensory therapy, or sensory stimulation, has been practiced in Europe as far back as the 1960s as a means of helping individuals with learning disabilities. In the 1970s, two Dutch therapists; Jan Hulsegge and Ad Verheul experimented with a sensory tent at the DeHartenburg Institute with a goal of increasing enjoyment and providing a sensory experience for those with cognitive disabilities. Following the success of this innovative therapy, the term Snoezelen® was coined – a contraction of the Dutch verbs “snuffelen” (to seek and explore) and “doezelen” (to relax).

This concept of multi-sensory therapy quickly gained popularity as a treatment for individuals living with dementia. Today, sensory therapy is utilized in 42 countries to treat a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s, autism, brain injuries, chronic pain and more.

Benefits of Sensory Therapy

Sensory therapy for dementia is designed to allow individuals to interact with their environment, relax, enjoy themselves, and to tap into possibly long-forgotten memories. As dementia progresses, people often lose the ability to effectively communicate and perform daily activities. By performing sensory activities through the use of different tools and actions that reach the basic functions of the brain where residents can still use their five senses – vision, touch, taste, smell and hearing – individuals enjoy a level of stimulation that may increase awareness and attention through simple tasks.
Sensory therapy has a variety of benefits for individuals living with dementia, including:

  • Provides a means of expressing oneself. Stimulating the senses often facilitates communication between individuals with dementia and their loved ones. For those having difficulty expressing themselves through speech, a sensory activity can allow them to display their feelings in a different manner, such as showing happiness through viewing old photos or videos.
  • Increases self-esteem. The ability to express oneself promotes positive self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, while also allowing them to relax and feel secure in their surroundings. By using objects or activities that conjure nostalgic feelings, individuals can be reminded of their past accomplishments, which in turn affords them more confidence in their daily lives.
  • Invokes memories of the past. Dementia slowly takes away the memories of those with the condition, but sensory therapy can help bring them back. Listening to favorite music from the past, in particular, helps engage the areas of the brain that language alone cannot. Individuals can often remember tunes and lyrics of favorite songs long after communication skills have declined.
  • Encourages social interaction. Social wellness is one of the most important components to a high quality of life. Engaging the senses through sensory therapy allows individuals living with dementia a change to connect with others in ways that may not have been possible otherwise.

Sensory Therapy at Peabody Retirement Community

In the Memory Care Center at Peabody Retirement Community, we offer specialized, attentive and respectful memory care for your loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. Our memory care center features a Multi-Sensory Room for innovative sensory therapy with essential oil aromatherapy, sound machine, fiber optic light strands and more, all designed to improve quality of life for our residents. If you’d like to learn more about our memory care program, we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have. Please contact us today.

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