ALTERNATIVE THERAPY for DEMENTIA
SENSORY STIMULATION FOR DEMENTIA
Sensory stimulation is anything that effects one of the five senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch), and also the organs that give us a sense of location and balance. However, we don't really see with our eyes; we don't really hear with our ears. Information from our sense organs is processed by the brain. Sensory stimulation is brain stimulation.
We interact with the world through our senses. Sounds, colors, tastes and smells all effect the way we think and feel. The same is true for the person with Alzheimer's disease. Appropriate sensory stimulation has been found to decrease agitation and aggression, calm restlessness, and successfully treat sleep disorders. These are all common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer's.
A recent review published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing examined fifty-five studies of the effects of sensory stimulation on individuals with dementia. "The different sensory stimulation interventions were organised into eight categories: music, light therapy, acupressure/reflexology, massage/aromatherapy and doll therapy/pet therapy/toy therapy, the Sonas program and Snoezelen."
The general conclusion of the review was that more study is needed, with some recommendations for such study. However, most of the modes of stimulation performed well in reducing agitation and aggression, anxiety, depression, and some of the other symptoms associated with dementia. Many improved cognitive performance and quality of life.
Few things affect only one of the senses or one part of the brain. Bright light therapy and aromatherapy may be exceptions to this. We hear music with our ears, but many parts of the brain respond to music, not only the auditory cortex. Our gel pads are primarily tactile, but there is also a strong visual component.Some of our sensory games, like Follow Your Nose and Texture Matching Game add a strong cognitive element. As long as an activity doesn't become overwhelming, the more and varied the stimulation the better.