Swift changes in moods are hallmark signs and symptoms of dementia, and can be very hard for family caregivers to navigate. One moment you are having fun with a nice activity together, when seemingly out of nowhere, the senior’s countenance darkens. You could then find yourself walking on eggshells while you carefully try to resolve an issue you do not completely understand.
Although it’s helpful to determine the root cause behind intense emotions such as anxiety, agitation, and fear, unfortunately, it is not always achievable. There could be a known trigger, such as hunger or boredom, that can easily be resolved; but there could be more arbitrary causes, such as the older adult recalling an unpleasant memory from many years ago that they are not able to discuss. Sensory stimulation for dementia patients can help.
What Should I Do Now?
After confirming that the older adult isn’t in pain or physical discomfort, there are two essential actions to take:
- Journaling: Keep a notebook close by while caring for a senior loved one. Record the date, time of day, and any other facts relating to an incident of agitation. For example, note whether or not the senior had just woken up, had just finished eating dinner, had not used the restroom for several hours, was watching the news on TV, etc. The time of day is especially significant to note, as people who have dementia usually experience more anxiety in the late afternoon and evening. The objective with journaling is to look for commonalities and patterns that can help you avoid future occurrences.
- Diversion/Redirection: After acknowledging the feelings the senior is experiencing, it’s often beneficial to move into a different part of the home (or even to go outside if the weather is nice enough) and shift the person’s attention to something enjoyable. If it’s been a while since breakfast, a mid-morning snack on the front porch can help. If the senior is wandering or pacing, try heading out for a walk around the block or to the park. Oftentimes, listening to favorite music can provide a sense of relaxation. Try various strategies and write down the results in your journal for future reference.
Engaging the Senses
Sensory stimulation for dementia patients can help preempt or offer distraction from challenging mood swings. Try making and implementing some of the following creative ideas from our experts in home care in Arlington Heights, IL and the surrounding communities:
- Perfumed Cards: Cut pieces of cardboard and affix perfumed objects in small zip-locked plastic bags to one end. Use a number of scents that stimulate memories or a sense of peace: chocolate, cinnamon, peppermint, vanilla, suntan lotion, coffee, etc. Use your imagination and discuss each scent while enjoying them together.
- Aquarium Bag: Fill a large zip-locked plastic bag with water beads and a number of small plastic marine animals, plants, etc. Use this idea as a jumping-off point to other sensory bags with different themes based on the senior’s particular interests.
- Homemade Paint: Prepare a batch of this safe, nontoxic paint to have readily available, which can be used for either finger painting or brush painting. Blend together ½ c cornstarch and 2¾ c cold water in a pot. Cook and stir over medium heat until boiling. Stir 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin into ½ c of cold water and add to the cornstarch and water. Allow the mixture to cool, and then separate into different containers, adding different colors of food coloring to each.
Want More Ideas?
Inspired Home Care’s experts in home care in Arlington Heights, IL and the surrounding communities are full of imaginative ideas like these, along with the skill to help successfully handle even the most complicated effects of the disease. Our objective is always to make life the best it can be for the seniors and families we serve, every day. Give us a call at 847-787-7572 for more information about creating sensory stimulation for dementia patients and how our home care services can help.