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Benefits of sensory engagement in people living with dementia

Alzheimer's WA's Dementia Resource Centre

Experiencing life through sensory stimulation is an important part of living. For people with dementia the opportunity to experience pleasant sensory engagement as the condition progresses may be reduced.

Creating sensory experiences through the use of fiddle boards, twiddle mats and aprons, different textured objects, and visual and smell activities have been used for a number of years in aged care facilities and hospitals in Western Australia, nationwide, and overseas, to help improve the wellbeing of people living with dementia.

Items such as sensory mats provide engagement that can be calming, prompt special memories or a sense of usefulness, or evoke feelings of joy. This can lead to sustained periods of improved mood and self-esteem, and increased social interaction.

Items that provide sensory engagement can be very beneficial when introduced to people living with dementia, particularly if they include items that are familiar or have a strong link to a person’s past. Combining meaningful activities with sensory stimulation such as gardening, hand massages or arts and creative pastimes can enhance a persons’ wellbeing.

A variety of sensory and therapeutic items are made by local volunteer groups and businesses based in Australia. An article published by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation illustrates the use of fiddle muffs and twiddles in an aged care facility.

Alzheimer’s WA has produced a number of information sheets highlighting different types of sensory and therapeutic items that are available, where they can be purchased and how they can be used. They include twiddle pups and cats, robotic pets, sensory cushions and activity aprons.

At Alzheimer’s WA we value and recognise the positive outcomes that can be achieved through engaging in a variety of meaningful activities. Sensory engagement is just one type of activity that can be used successfully in people living with late stage dementia.

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