senior lady painting with friend

Swift changes in moods are characteristic signs of dementia, and can be very hard for family care providers to navigate. One minute you may be enjoying a pleasant activity together, when apparently out of nowhere, the person’s countenance darkens. It’s possible to then find yourself walking on eggshells while you cautiously attempt to resolve a situation you don’t fully grasp.

Though it’s useful to determine the root cause behind powerful emotions such as agitation, anxiety, and fear, unfortunately, it is not always feasible. There could be a known cause, like boredom or hunger, that can be easily resolved; but there could be more arbitrary causes, such as the older adult recalling a distressing memory from many years ago that they are unable to discuss. To help reduce anxiety, sensory activities for dementia can help restore calm.

What Do I Do Now?

After determining that the older adult is not in pain or physical discomfort, there are two crucial actions to take:

  • Journaling: Keep a notebook close by while taking care of a senior loved one. Record the date, time, and any other particulars pertaining to an occurrence of agitation. For instance, note if the older adult had just woken up, had just finished having dinner, had not used the bathroom for a few hours, was watching the news on TV, etc. The hour of the day is especially important to note, as individuals with dementia usually experience more anxiety in the late afternoon and evening. The goal with journaling is to identify commonalities and patterns which can help you avoid future occurrences.
  • Distraction/Redirection: After recognizing the feelings the older adult is experiencing, it is often effective to move into a different area of the home (or to go outside if the weather’s nice enough) and shift the senior’s attention to something enjoyable. If it’s been a long time since breakfast, a mid-morning snack on the front porch may help. If the senior is wandering or pacing, try venturing out for a walk around the block or to the park. Sometimes, listening to favorite music can offer feelings of calm. Try different strategies and write down the results in your journal for future reference.

Engaging the Senses

Sensory activities for dementia can help preempt or provide distraction from challenging mood changes. Try creating and implementing one or more of these innovative ideas from our experts in dementia care in Howard County, Maryland and the surrounding areas:

  • Fragrance Cards: Cut pieces of cardboard and attach aromatic items in small sealed plastic baggies to one end. Use a variety of scents that bring to mind memories or a feeling of peace: cinnamon, vanilla, peppermint, pine needles, chocolate, coffee, suntan lotion, etc. Use your imagination and discuss each fragrance while enjoying them together.
  • Aquarium Bag: Fill a big zip-lock plastic bag with water beads and a number of small plastic marine animals, plants, etc. Employ this idea as a springboard to other sensory bags with different themes according to the older adult’s specific interests.
  • Homemade Paint: Prepare a batch of this safe, nontoxic paint to keep on hand, that can be used for either finger painting or brush painting. Blend together ½ c cornstarch and 2¾ c cold water in a pan. Cook and stir over medium heat until boiling. Stir 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin into ½ c of cold water and add to the cornstarch and water. Allow the mixture to cool, and then divide up into different containers, adding different colors of food coloring to each.

Want More Ideas?

At Home With You Senior Care, our experts in dementia care in Howard County, MD and the nearby communities are full of innovative ideas like these, as well as the skill to help effectively handle even the most complicated symptoms of the disease. Our objective is always to make life the best it can be for the seniors and families we serve, each and every day. Reach out to us at 410-756-0959 for more information.