773 E. Haverford Road • Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

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Understanding and Coping with Sensory Changes in Your Loved One with Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cause significant changes to the brain as they follow their progressive course. Among these changes are a decline in the functioning of the primary human senses. As a result, you will likely notice changes in your loved one’s ability to process and understand what they see, hear, smell, taste and touch over the course of time. This occurs because a brain affected by Alzheimer’s has difficulty comprehending and responding to the messages it receives – almost as if the five senses are now communicating in an unfamiliar language. This changes how your loved one experiences life and interacts with the environment around them.

Education and Preparation are Key

George Salloom, Executive Director of Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, says, “When changes begin to occur in a loved one’s normal sensory capabilities, it is important for caregivers to educate themselves on the subject in order to be prepared for potential challenges. For example, sensory deficits can pose a significant threat to your loved one’s safety and health. In fact, experts tell us that one of the greatest sources of risk is the home itself. Each year, many people with Alzheimer’s burn themselves on hot stoves, eat spoiled food and trip over unseen objects.”   

“Fortunately, there are useful resources available that can help you to safety-proof the home. Additionally, there are a variety of useful therapies practiced at leading memory care assisted living communities that you can also provide in the home to stimulate your loved one’s senses. These therapies provide them with physical and emotional benefits and improve their overall sense of well-being.”  

Sensory Changes and the Importance of a Safe Home Environment

The Alzheimer’s Association article,How Dementia Affects Safety,” reviews how changes to the brain’s sensory abilities increase the safety risks to your loved one and offers important suggestions for reducing hazards in the home. Likewise, the Mayo Clinic article, “Home Safety Tips: Preparing for Alzheimer's Caregiving,” provides a detailed list of suggestions for keeping the home safe. Both of these expert sources recommend starting with a home safety evaluation and then implementing safety measures for primary areas of potential danger, including the bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, garage and basement.

Sensory Stimulation Activities Make Connections and Improve Physical and Emotional Well-Being

Today, sensory stimulation activities are being used as legitimate and effective forms of therapy for individuals with memory disorders. Also referred to as “holistic” or “complementary therapies,” they often employ music, art, pets and forms of reminiscence designed to stimulate one or more of the five senses and evoke pleasant feelings. In addition to bringing enjoyment to loved ones with Alzheimer’s, research has shown that sensory stimulation can reduce their anxiety and agitation while also promoting social engagement by providing them with a means of expression. 

The most effective forms of sensory stimulation are said to be those linked closely to your loved one’s past life, like memorable happy events, hobbies, favorite sports, personal interests and career(s). Therefore, therapy experts, including the Alzheimer’s Association, recommend tailoring your activities to those experiences that will connect best with your loved one’s happiest times. Examples of effective sensory stimulation activities include:

  • Listening to favorite music from your loved one’s past
  • Watching favorite movies or TV shows – some networks feature the old hits
  • Looking through old photo albums and pointing out family members, friends and events
  • Reading aloud from your loved one’s favorite book(s) or magazine(s)
  • Drawing or painting pictures
  • Visiting with a friendly pet
  • Providing scents and aromas that conjure up pleasant past experiences (such as a turkey at Thanksgiving)
  • Taking a walk together in a favorite place
  • Providing a change of scenery by taking your loved one outdoors for some fresh air

By reducing safety hazards in the home and providing sensory stimulation therapy to your loved one, you can protect them from dangers and improve their physical and emotional well-being.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Our brand-new Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr community provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family,” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If, and when, the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5400, or contact us online.

Disclaimer: This information should not be construed as Impressions at Bryn Mawr Terrace or Main Line Senior Care Alliance offering legal advice. For legal advice, please consult your attorney.