senior lady painting with friend

Swift changes in moods are hallmark characteristics of dementia, and can be extremely hard for family caregivers  to navigate. One moment you might be having fun participating in an enjoyable activity together, when seemingly out of thin air, the senior’s demeanor darkens. You could then find yourself walking on eggshells while you carefully attempt to resolve an issue you don’t fully understand.

Though it’s useful to determine the primary cause behind powerful emotions like fear, agitation, and anxiety, unfortunately, it is not always possible. There could be a known cause, like boredom or hunger, which can easily be resolved; but there might be more arbitrary triggers, such as the older adult recollecting a troubling memory from many years ago they are not able to discuss. To help with these issues, sensory activities for seniors with dementia can be extremely beneficial.

What Do I Do Now?

Upon confirming the older adult is not in pain or physical distress, there are two initial steps to take:

  • Journaling: Keep a notebook close by while taking care of the senior loved one. Record the date, time, and any other facts regarding an incident of agitation. For example, note whether or not the senior had just woken up, had just finished eating dinner, hadn’t used the bathroom for several hours, was watching the news on television, etc. The time of day is especially important to note, as people who have dementia usually suffer from more anxiety in the late afternoon and evening. Keeping a journal allows family caregivers to identify commonalities and patterns to help avoid future occurrences.
  • Diversion/Redirection: After acknowledging the feelings the senior is experiencing, it is often effective to move into a different part of the home (or even to go outside if the weather is nice enough) and change the focus to something pleasurable. If it has been a while since breakfast, a mid-morning snack on the front porch might help. If the senior is wandering or pacing, try going out for a walk around the block or even to the park. Oftentimes, listening to favorite music can bring feelings of relaxation. Try different strategies and write down the outcomes in your journal for future reference.

Engaging the Senses

Sensory activities for seniors with dementia can help preempt or provide distraction from challenging mood changes. Try creating and implementing one or more of the following ideas from Anthem Home Care’s experts in respite care in Portland, TX and the surrounding communities:

  • Scented Cards: Cut pieces of cardboard and attach aromatic items in small -sealed plastic bags to one end. Use a variety of scents that evoke memories or a feeling of peace: chocolate, cinnamon, peppermint, vanilla, suntan lotion, coffee, etc. Use your imagination and talk about each smell while enjoying them together.
  • Aquarium Bag: Fill a big zip-locked plastic bag with water beads and multiple small plastic aquatic animals, plants, etc. Utilize this idea as a springboard to other sensory bags with different themes based on the senior’s specific 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. Mix together ½ c cornstarch and 2¾ c cold water in a pot. Cook and stir over medium heat until it boils. Stir 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin into ½ c of cold water and add to the cornstarch and water. Let the mixture cool, and then split up into different containers, adding different colors of food coloring to each.

Want More Ideas?

Our dementia care specialists are full of creative ideas such as these, along with the skill to help effectively handle even the most difficult effects of the condition. Our objective is always to make life the best it can be for the seniors and families we serve, on a daily basis. Contact us at 361-643-2323 for more information about our award-winning home and respite care in Portland, TX and the neighboring communities.