Multi-sensory stimulation is very popular in memory care facilities and refers to the ability to process information through the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.
Benefits of Sensory Stimulation
Multi-Sensory Environments can open up a whole new world for individuals with cognitive and physical impairments. There are many benefits to creating a sensory-stimulating environment:
- Improve coordination and motor development
- Promote cognitive development by increased brain function
- Lead residents to explore their environment
- Provide a feeling of comfort and security
- Promote a calmer environment
- Promote better communication
There are many multi-sensory tools that are used in memory care facilities to help their Alzheimer’s patients.
Memory boxes hold items that have sentimental value and bring happy memories to the recipient of the box and can stimulate conversation with family members, caregivers, and other residents.
A memory box should be easy to handle, made of a non-breakable material, and small enough to fit on one’s lap. It should also be easy to open or use.
The contents should have personal significance and be meaningful to the Alzheimer’s patient. Avoid anything too fragile, sharp or too heavy, or anything that is extremely valuable or irreplaceable. Include items that are sensory – like a specific texture, fragrance or song.
Your loved one may not recognize the items right away. Include a sticker and a “packing list” or “table of contents” with each item’s history and family significance. Have them handle each item and encourage them to share the special memories associated with the item.
Some items to include in a memory box:
- Copies of family photographs (write names and dates on the back)
- Favorite perfume or bar of fragrant soap
- Artwork by children or grandchildren
- Postcards or vacation souvenirs
- A Christmas ornament, or Hanukkah candles
- Article of baby’s clothing or a rattle
- A sports trophy won by a family member
The memories brought on by these items can stimulate the senior emotionally and prompt a conversation with loved ones, caretakers or other residents.
Many memory care facilities have a multisensory room. Be mindful that extremely loud music, bright lights, and loud voices may confuse people living with Alzheimer’s. Facility staff members must be available to monitor the residents at all times.
Multisensory activities combine two or more senses, such as:
- Eating dinner while listening to music.
- Hand-massage and conversation.
- Relaxing in a massage chair while watching colorful landscapes on a TV screen.
- Enjoying an elegant tea in a garden setting.
Sensory boxes or packages allow the resident to use as many senses as possible. Some ideas are:
- Fabrics box – a box with different types of scarves – silk, wool, velvet, lace. Talk about the different textures and colors.
- Fruit salad – a mixture of different types of berries, melon, citrus fruit. The colors are visually stimulating, the smell and taste are sweet and fruity.
- Soap basket – a basket with various multi-colored, multi-shape fragrant soaps. The texture is smooth, the colors are soothing, and the perfumed smell may bring back memories of the past.
- Molding clay (like Play-Doh) is moldable into any shape and feels squishy and fun. The colors are bright, and the smell may be reminiscent of when the children were young.
Create multisensory spaces
You can add multisensory spaces in your facility to give the residents an opportunity to have new experiences.
- Herb Garden – grow a few fragrant herbs in containers in a public room or outside garden. The multi-colored leaves and fronds, scents and tastes will be enjoyed by residents as well as visitors.
- Spa environment – set up a spa-like environment with manicure tables, shoulder massages, and aromatherapy.
- International Food Day – Pick a cuisine – French, Italian, Greek, Mexican, etc. Serve foods from that part of the world and decorate the room with items representing that country.