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How to Make a Sensory Room for People with Dementia

Dementia can cause many problems for those affected, and one area that often causes issues is a decrease in sensory stimulation.

This can affect all five of the senses and can leave those afflicted with an inability to recall past memories, as well as difficulties in communicating and focusing on a task at hand.

As a way to stimulate one’s senses to combat memory loss, sensory therapy for dementia is a popular form of treatment.

Sensory Rooms Explained

This specific type of therapy focuses on providing familiar stimuli in a relaxing environment for the person to explore and interact with.

While a number of residential care facilities offer their own sensory therapy rooms, they may not contain stimuli suitable for the specific individual.

As such, designing your own sensory therapy room in your own home, if done correctly, can potentially have a greater impact for a loved one affected by dementia than one created by someone else.

However, there are a number of important factors to consider when designing a sensory therapy room. Follow our guide below to help make the perfect one.

Consider the Stage of Dementia First

Before considering the type of activities and stimuli to provide in your sensory room, you should consider what level of dementia your loved one is affected with first.

This is because different levels of dementia will require different approaches. In the later stages of dementia, a person’s ability to complete tasks and follow instructions becomes increasingly difficult, so creating a room that has an activity with too many steps is likely not to work.

Early Stages vs Late Stages of Dementia

For people in the late stages of dementia, focus on providing stimuli that affect the senses as opposed to actual activities. Some ideas include scrunched up paper for touch, and the smell of baking for smell.

But for those in only the early stages of dementia, where one’s ability to complete tasks is not affected as drastically, multi-step activities can actually be beneficial and help promote a sense of independence.

Baking a cake, potting plants or making greetings cards are but a few simple ideas of activities appropriate for someone in the early stages of dementia.

Getting the Balance Right

You will want to fill your sensory room with stimuli that may relate to events from a loved one’s past, as well as stimuli they will want to interact with.

The simplest way to do this is with visual stimulation, such as through old movie posters or photos of friends and family from the past.

However, many people make the mistake of focusing too much on the visual side of things when it comes to creating a sensory room.

While visuals are important, a successful sensory room relies on being multi-sensory, meaning they work best when stimulating more than one sense at once.

As such, sound, smell, taste and touch should also equally be considered when putting the sensory room together.

Under Stimulation and Over Stimulation

The amount of stimulation required though largely depends on the individual. Think about your loved one – do they often like to walk about exploring their environment? Then they will likely require a large number of stimuli to keep them focused.

Alternatively, if your loved one often avoids contact with others and likes to keep to themselves, then less stimulation may be required.

If this is the case, making use of both intense and gentle stimuli can help ensure over stimulation does not occur.

Bringing It All Together

When it comes to it, only you know what is best to include in your sensory room.

As long as you take the level of your loved one’s dementia into consideration and include suitable stimuli, you can provide a relaxing yet stimulating experience for them that they are sure to enjoy.

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