How Does Dementia Affect Sense Perception?
While the normal effects of aging can include weaker hearing and eyesight, people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia experience a greater degree of sensory loss. Combined with the cognitive effects of these conditions, this can make navigating the world more difficult. Knowing how the senses are affected by dementia can help older people and their caregivers take steps to improve their quality of life and cope with changes in the senses.
Town Square offers specialized, reminiscence-focused adult day services that keep seniors with dementia engaged while also focusing on overall health, including sensory health. We’re also here to support caregivers with helpful resources, educational programming, and more. Find your nearest Town Square location or contact us to find out more or read on to learn more about how cognitive conditions impact the senses.
Which Senses Are Most Affected by Dementia, and Why?
Our brain interprets sensory signals, allowing us to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. Because dementia affects all parts of the brain, including those areas that process the senses, people with dementia may have a harder time comprehending sensory information.
As a result, someone with dementia might have good eye function on a physical level, but changes to the brain might inhibit their ability to interpret the colors and shapes they see. Likewise, their hearing might be fine, but they might not be able to process sound information correctly. The same is true for the other senses. Someone with a cognitive health condition might struggle to hear, see, feel, taste, and smell because brain changes affect specific association areas that process the corresponding sensory information.
The sense of smell is often the first sense that dementia affects. Smell is also the sense that’s most closely linked with memory, and neurologists have found that changes in smell perception can be an early warning sign of cognitive decline.
How Can Caregivers of Those With Dementia Help Cope with Vision and Hearing Loss?
Our interactions with the world around us are largely based on sights and sounds. For this reason, vision and hearing impairments can be the most challenging to cope with for people who have dementia. When vision declines, older adults usually stop driving. They also might be less physically active because they’re afraid of falling. If they can’t hear people talking, they might be less likely to spend time with friends.
Both exercise and socialization play a critical role in managing dementia symptoms, including sensory symptoms. Here are some things you can do to support a loved one with vision and hearing issues due to dementia:
- For hearing loss, limit background noise and speak slowly and calmly when communicating.
- For vision loss, use color-contrast strips on steps, drawers, and cabinets and place pictures on doors of the house to make it easier to see.
- Take your loved one to regular ophthalmologist, optometrist, or audiologist visits to make sure devices like glasses and hearing aids remain effective.
It’s also important to ensure your loved one is spending time with others and getting regular physical activity – something our adult day care services focus on.
How Can Sensory Engagement Improve the Quality of Life of People with Dementia?
The more stimulated and engaged the brain, the healthier it can be, and sensory activity is one of the most basic forms of stimulation. Research shows that sensory stimulation for people with dementia can stimulate memories, increase concentration, boost cognitive function, and improve mood, self-esteem, and well-being.
Here are some sensory activities you can try:
- Walking in a botanical garden or park where you can see bright colors and smell scents from different flowers.
- Spend time with the pets of family and friends, as long as the animals are comfortable with your presence.
- Give them a hand massage.
- Play calming music or music that sparks memories.
- Cook their favorite foods.
Town Square Adult Day Care: Dementia Care and Support
Town Square offers innovative senior day services designed to support individuals with dementia. Each day, our members spark memories through immersive activities, form beneficial social bonds, express their creativity, and have plenty of vintage fun with peers in the care of our dementia care-trained team. We offer caregivers respite and peace of mind during the all-important daytime hours of the workweek.