Memory Mondays: A Sensory Room for Dementia

As understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia progresses, new treatments and ways to live with the disease are evolving, as well. One recent memory care development is the sensory room for dementia, which allows people living with dementia to safely explore and stimulate all five senses.

Depending on the needs of the person with dementia, sensory rooms focus on calming or stimulating via gentle light, movement, music and physical objects, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The benefits of sensory rooms are several-fold. They boost comfort and a sense of well-being, relieve stress and pain and maximize the ability to focus, says Dr. Anke Jakob, a researcher at London’s Kingston University and co-producer of the publication, “How to Make a Sensory Room for People Living with Dementia.” These benefits go on to enhance communication and memory.

Such spaces have historically been geared more towards those with learning or physical disabilities, but sensory rooms have been proven to also support those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

A sensory room for dementia doesn’t have to be over the top or complex to create, either. They’re actually quite simple to design, and the advantages for your loved ones are noticeable. Here are some sensory room ideas.

Ways to Design Your Own Sensory Room

– Remember that less is more.

– Keep some familiar items in plain sight. This helps the person with dementia to relax before participating in activities around the room.

– Make sure that smells are subtle and not overwhelming. Everyday smells like chocolate, herbs and wood are ideal.

– Avoid overhead lighting. Use filtered, soft lighting instead.

– Music played at a moderate level can attract someone with dementia to a certain area of the room. If played too loud, however, it may overpower their thoughts.

– Remember each of the senses and how each can be stimulated with items in the room. Consider flowers or musical instruments, for example.

– Rely on items like jelly, Play-Doh, sand and water to stimulate touch.

– Buttons, ribbons and zippers can facilitate hearing, memory, movement, touch and vision.

– Find a balance between high-tech devices and household items that the person with dementia will know how to use.