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A Sensory Room for Dementia

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerMarch 15, 2017

Sensory rooms are special places for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to safely explore and stimulate all five senses. The rooms can be used for calming or stimulating, depending on the needs of your loved one.

Read more about the benefits of sensory room therapy and how you can create your own sensory room for your senior loved one.

What Is a Sensory Room?

As we continue to learn more about Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia, new treatment methods, ways to live with the disease and ways to love those with the disease are constantly evolving.

One of the newest trends in memory care are sensory rooms that combine gentle light, movement, music and tactile objects designed to either calm or stimulate residents.

Dr. Anke Jakob, from London’s Kingston University and co-producer of the publication “How to Make a Sensory Room for People Living with Dementia,” says that sensory rooms:

“Can enhance feelings of comfort and well-being, relieve stress and pain and maximize a person’s potential to focus, all of which help improve communication and memory.”

She went on to say that while these spaces are typically geared to younger people with learning or physical disabilities, people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can also reap benefits.

“Traditionally, these spaces have been geared more towards younger adults and children with learning or physical disabilities. However, our approach emphasizes the benefits of addressing all the senses to support residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia in a care home environment. Soft textiles, familiar everyday objects, interesting things to smell and taste, sound and film can all have an important part to play in that process.”

10 Ways to Design Your Own Sensory Room

The guide, which is available as a free download, also outlines 10 tips to creating your own multi-sensory room for your loved one.

These tips can get you started on your own sensory room in your own home:

  1. Design your room using the principle that “less is more.”
  2. Display a few familiar items that can help your loved one relax before engaging in activities around the room.
  3. Do not include dramatic smells. Instead, focus on everyday smells like chocolate, herbs, peeled fruit or wood.
  4. Do not put overhead lighting in your room. Use filtered, soft lighting.
  5. Find a quiet corner or place that can hold 4-6 people.
  6. Play music at a moderate level to attract your loved one to the space, but not loud enough to overpower their thoughts.
  7. Start small. Find a balance between high-tech items and household items that are familiar and will be simple to use by your loved one.
  8. Think through each of the senses and make sure you have something that will stimulate each sense in the room. This could be:  flowers, musical instruments or scented cushions.
  9. To stimulate touch, use items like jelly, Play-Doh, sand or water.
  10. Use buttons, pockets, ribbons and zippers to stimulate hearing, memory, movement, touch and vision.

Have you made a sensory room or has your senior loved one used a room like this in the past? We’d love to hear more about your experiences in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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