As we age, it is not uncommon for our cognitive abilities to decline, leading to conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's. These conditions can profoundly impact an individual's daily life, making it difficult for them to engage in activities and communicate effectively. However, there are tools available that can help seniors with dementia and Alzheimer's by stimulating their senses and promoting relaxation. This blog post will explore some sensory tools that can benefit seniors with these conditions.
Seniors with Dementia and Alzheimer's often struggle with anxiety and restlessness, leading to what we call "busy/fidgety hands." Often, we see our seniors in memory care showing the following signs: pulling or rubbing at clothes or bedding, rubbing hands together, twisting fingers, wringing hands, and generally keeping their hands in motion.
Here is a list of options to help reduce anxiety and to calm busy hands.
Fidget Blankets or Quilts
These blankets, aprons, or quilts assist with daily functioning tasks and help keep busy hands occupied to reduce anxiety and restlessness. The items are designed with several sensory objects to improve functional skills (i.e. a zipper and buttons). They come in multiple textures and surfaces for tactile stimulation, and there are multiple hand activities for improved finger dexterity and improved eye-hand coordination.
There are many toy-like calming items, such as fidget toys, lacing beads, therapy dolls, and companion pets that mimic cat or dog movements that can assist in providing comfort and bring calm to a senior with Dementia and Alzheimer's.
Providing seniors with Dementia the opportunity to perform familiar tasks is another option for busy hands. This may include folding laundry, organizing paperwork, sorting and organizing a drawer of items, or even shuffling, stacking, or arranging a deck of cards with visual images that can also stimulate their interest.
DIY Fidget Box
You can even make your own fidget box or basket for your elderly loved one or person in your care. The portable box can be brought to them when they require something to reduce anxiety and calm restlessness. Fill the container with inexpensive odds and ends you can find in your house, make quickly or buy at the dollar store. Gather things in a variety of colours and textures, like:
Things with zippers or velcro closures
Little toys that wind up
Stress balls for squeezing
Brightly coloured plastic springs (like a Slinky)
Mini stuffed animals
A row of buttons sewn firmly onto a ribbon
A piece of soft fleece or faux fur
Old keys on a keyring
Reminiscence therapy uses sensory tools to stimulate memories and encourage seniors with dementia and Alzheimer's to recall past experiences. This can be done through the use of memory boxes, photo albums, or even familiar scents associated with certain events or places. By engaging in reminiscence therapy, seniors can feel a sense of connection to their past, which can improve their mood, cognition, and overall well-being.
Music therapy has been shown to positively impact individuals with dementia and Alzheimer's. Listening to familiar music can evoke memories, improve mood, and reduce agitation. Seniors can use sensory tools such as headphones or portable music players to listen to their favourite songs or music that is specifically designed for individuals with cognitive impairments. Music therapy can provide a sense of joy and comfort, allowing seniors to engage in meaningful and enjoyable activities.
No matter the object or method, the goal is to engage your loved one or person in your care with meaningful, purposeful and fun activities to occupy busy hands and help to provide a calm and relaxing environment.
"Improving the quality of life for our clients since 1998 while providing peace of mind to their families."
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