Many older persons with advanced dementia can improve their communications and connections with those around them by using a therapeutic technique known as multi-sensory stimulation.
Therapists use everyday items that these seniors can see, smell, hear, taste and touch to create more positive feelings and express themselves, either verbally or non-verbally. By drawing attention to familiar items, multi-sensory stimulation appears to encourage memories and generate responses from some seniors suffering from dementia.
The staff of our Country Meadows retirement home in Pittsburgh, PA (in South Hills) has been participating in a multi-sensory pilot program and is enthusiastic about improved responses from some residents with dementia. Their families have noticed differences, too. Staff and family members have observed reactions including laughter, conversations, alertness, relaxation, stronger gait and easier transitions between activities.
Country Meadows therapist Maureen Sirianni has worked with persons in need of memory care for 21 years and manages the new program. She decided to try entering their world through multi-sensory engagement rather than attempt to draw them into our world. To start the program, she sought the counsel and experience of Fine Art Miracles, Inc., an organization that helps people with physical, intellectual and emotional challenges explore their creativity.
Sensory stimulants used in the sessions include aromas, music, foods and stuffed animals. The 90-minute sessions, designed for up to six participants, incorporate all the sensory stimulants around a central theme. A session with a cooking theme might involve various foods, smells of foods baking, egg beaters and cookie cutters, and pictures of cookies and pies. A sensory covering, a blanket with various textures, colors and pictures, features pockets for holding various items.
One resident with dementia who cries often stopped crying during the multi-sensory sessions. Another who is prone to wandering away remained at the activity table because he was so engaged.
“This is what we’re always seeking for our residents. It’s that human connection so that even in the advanced stages of dementia, they know that they are loved and have a purpose,” notes Sirianni. “When someone is declining, we must remember that the person is in there. They can still feel emotions and express their feelings in a non-verbal way.”
When family members learned of the positive responses, some asked if they could stand back and observe, but after just a few sessions, they joined in, interacting and talking with their loved ones.
“One family member said, ‘I feel like I have my mother back for this hour.’ I’ve also heard them say ‘it’s great to see her smile,’ or ‘hear him speak,'” says Sirianni.
Memory care support at Country Meadows Retirement Communities has been in place for 20 years. Our Connections Memory Support Services has cared for more than 10,000 people with cognitive loss at its 11 retirement homes. Read about our Connections Club for seniors with mild memory loss and our Connections Neighborhood for those with serious memory loss.
If you are choosing a retirement community and feel your loved one might be a candidate for our Connections program, we recommend that you view this video. You may determine that his or her needs would be met by memory care support delivered within our caring senior community, rather than a nursing home or long-term care facility.
Please contact us for more information on our Connections memory care program or our senior living communities. We offer a relaxing but active retirement in a senior independent living community or a personal care or assisted living home in Pennsylvania or Maryland. We invite you to visit one or more of our senior living homes, where you will find residents with full lives within a caring environment. Country Meadows has 10 retirement communities in Pennsylvania as well as a retirement community in Frederick, Maryland.