Caregiver Coping Tips: Dealing with the Sensory Changes Caused by Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are progressive memory disorders that affect brain cells and cause changes to a person’s basic functional abilities over time. The earliest and most obvious symptoms typically involve forgetfulness and memory loss, but as Alzheimer’s continues to progress all five of the basic human senses can be affected. The result is that a person’s ability to see, hear, smell, taste and touch can be diminished. When these sensory changes occur, it can affect how the individual interacts with the world around them, which in turn can create threats to their safety and health.
What Sensory Changes Mean to You and Your Loved One
Ms. Shellie Kermin, Community Relations Director of North Woods Village at Edison Lakes says, “Sensory changes in a loved one with Alzheimer’s can increase their risks of injury and illness, therefore it is important for caregivers to be aware of the dangers and to minimize the potential hazards to the best of their ability. Because the human senses and the brain are no longer able to communicate effectively with each other – almost as if they are now speaking different languages – loved ones are at much greater risk of burning themselves on hot stoves, not responding to a smoke detector and not realizing they’ve injured themselves. The good news is that there are a variety of helpful resources available that can guide you in making the home environment safer.”
Tips for Keeping the Home Safe
The Mayo Clinic article, “Home Safety Tips: Preparing for Alzheimer’s Caregiving,” offers a variety of room-by-room suggestions for keeping the home safe for your loved one. The Alzheimer’s Association article, “How Dementia Affects Safety,” also providesrecommendationsfor eliminating or reducing safety risks and offers a Home Safety Checklist for caregivers.
Each of these professional resources suggests that you begin with a detailed home safety evaluation followed by appropriate safety measures. Examples of such safety measures include: locking up potentially hazardous products or electrical appliances; removing artificial fruits or vegetables and food-shaped magnets; installing a monitoring device in the bedroom; placing medications in a locked drawer or cabinet; removing tripping hazards.
How Sensory Stimulation Therapy Can Improve Your Loved One’s Well-Being
Ms. Kermin adds, “Researchers and therapy specialists assert that sensory stimulation is a legitimate and effective form of treatment for individuals suffering sensory changes. Today, leading memory care assisted living communities offer a variety of such therapies that provide loved ones with both physical and emotional benefits while also enhancing their overall sense of well-being. Many of these useful activities can also be provided in the home setting.”
Often referred to as “holistic” therapies, these activities utilize music, art, pets and other cues to stimulate the senses and provide a means of expression that evokes pleasant feelings – all of which can reduce a loved one’s agitation and instill a sense of calm.
Examples of Effective Sensory Stimulation Activities
The Alzheimer’s Association and other therapy experts recommend customizing sensory stimulation activities to those life experiences that are most relevant to your loved one and can produce the most pleasant thoughts. Examples include:
- Looking through old photo albums together and pointing out family members, friends and events
- Watching old movies or favorite classic TV programs – some networks feature the old hits
- Listening to favorite music from your loved one’s past
- Painting and drawing for pleasure
- Reading to your loved one from their favorite book or magazine
- Visiting with a pet
- Walking together at a favorite location
- Providing scents and aromas that conjure up pleasant memories
Help Is Available for Caregivers
Today, a variety of resources is available to assist caregivers who are caring for their loved ones at home, including Alzheimer’s Association services, support groups, self-help guides, Respite Care services, in-home support, community-based services and educational programs. Progressive residential Memory Care Communities (MCCs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, offer a variety of educational programs, support and special events designed to help family caregivers.
Guiding. Caring. Inspiring.
For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading, residential Memory Care Assisted Living Communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM program in Mishawaka, IN, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “NEW DIRECTIONS”SM provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.