Sensory environments are an important cornerstone in the constantly evolving study of Alzheimer’s and dementia treatments. They’re designed to promote feelings of comfort, familiarity, and happiness, calm memory care patients, relieve stress and improve an individual’s ability to communicate, focus and remember.
At The Blake, we carefully construct sensory environments to help maximize their impact on seniors living with cognitive care needs and to promote meaningful experiences each and every day. Keep reading to learn more about sensory environments, how they’re designed and how they benefit memory care patients.
What is a sensory environment?
A sensory environment—or sensory room—is an immersive form of treatment for those living with Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia. It’s especially useful as a treatment for later-stage dementia patients who need sensory input to provide stimulation in their everyday lives. For people living with later-stage dementia, complex tasks can lead to anxiety, stress, and harmful behaviors.
Sensory environments evoke meaningful interaction between individuals and the world around them. They’re filled with specially designed and curated components that offer visual, auditory, tactile, fragrant, and even flavorful objects. Combining soft, gentle lighting, soothing music, and pleasing textures, aromas, and tastes, sensory rooms calm and stimulate an individual simultaneously. Spending time in a sensory environment has been shown to enhance everything from a patient’s social abilities to their everyday happiness.
What are the qualities of a sensory environment?
While no two sensory rooms are exactly alike, there are certain qualities that define these spaces. A sensory room can contain anything from bubble tubes to weighted blankets, stuffed animals to acrylic mirrors, and so many other objects that trigger a sensorial response. They’re highly unique environments that allow the individual to interact with the world around them in a safe, non-threatening manner.
Generally, a well-designed sensory environment includes objects that address all five senses. Some common characteristics include:
Sensory lighting: Ambient lighting is essential in every sensory environment. It plays on a patient's sense of sight to stimulate them, redirect unwanted behaviors, and de-escalate feelings of stress.
Ambient sounds: Music and sound have major impacts on human emotions, and they can even evoke memories. Sound is shown to help with memory recall while also helping the patient feel at ease during their time in the room.
Tactile objects: Familiar textures and tactile objects make a sensory room a more calming, comfortable space for dementia patients. Items like stuffed animals and blankets can put the individual’s anxieties to rest. Even bringing in pets for pet therapy can provide the touch stimulation dementia patients need to feel calm.
Fragrant objects: Fragrances can be powerful reminders of memories for people with dementia. Diffusing aromatherapy products can be a gateway for memories and information recall, and they’re often calming and soothing.
Flavorful objects: Some sensory rooms even include experiences or objects that address a patient’s sense of taste. Food or drinks that remind a patient of past pleasant moments can enrich the overall experience.
How do sensory environments benefit memory care patients?
Spending time in a sensory environment is beneficial for patients with moderate or advanced Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other forms of memory loss. Because they specifically stimulate senses in a way that prompts neural activity, sensory environments can offer meaningful benefits for those living with memory and cognition conditions.
Improves mood. It’s not uncommon for memory care patients to express aggressive behavior, and sensory therapy has proven effective at calming it. A sensory room is a non-threatening environment with objects and features that offer gentle stimulation that relieves tension. From dimmed lights to intriguing aromas, the features of a well-designed sensory environment replenish the spirit and encourage recuperation.
Stimulates the mind. There are many ways a sensory environment stimulates the mind and imagination in memory care patients. Sensory rooms provide opportunities for interpersonal interaction while developing and engaging the senses. It also gives caretakers opportunities to determine effective methods to engage or calm individuals while getting to know their likes and dislikes.
Relieves stress. Sensory rooms can offer immediate relief for patients suffering from acute anxiety. The many stimuli of a sensory environment offer opportunities for distraction, exploration, and interactive play. They also feature comfortable surroundings that provide familiarity, encouraging feelings of serenity and calm.
Improves communication. Sensory therapy is effective at reducing a memory care patient’s fear while strengthening their trust in the individuals who care for them. Since sensory environments can be adapted to the specific needs and interests of individual patients, sensorial stimuli improve the relationship between caregivers and the cared-for.
A higher quality of memory care at The Blake
If a loved one in your life is struggling with Alzheimer’s, dementia or another form of memory loss, determining the best method of care can be challenging. It’s why families and caregivers turn to The Blake for a higher level of quality care. We offer a calming, low-stress environment for adults with moderate to severe memory impairments, including sensory activities that lead to a better quality of life.
Connect with us today to learn more about our memory care program. We would love to hear from you and talk more about the sensory environments we strive to create for individuals requiring an elevated level of memory care.