Sensory experiences help residents with dementia

Dementia residents at Boandik have rekindled memories of the past through tactile objects during art therapy sessions.

The sessions are part of the dementia care and run twice a week by staff member Trudy Trandberg in addition to Boandik’s lifestyle program.

Mrs Trandberg creates a comforting sensory experience using different objects from the outside world such as mushrooms, a frog, a box of apricots, a picture book of farm animals, German dolls, and pop-up books.

“Individual’s brains adjust to dementia in diverse ways and some residents are at stages where they just want to touch certain things,” she said.

“Quite often just seeing, touching or smelling something brings back memories and you get a whole story from them.

“If residents are disorientated or discomforted in their lives because they know they were not quite how they were, it makes them feel calmer and more connected to themselves.

“It is surprising how many people are struggling with their dementia and change in life and then they spark up and a lot of information comes from them about an object.

“It is great Boandik recognise the need for these sessions and there is a program with the dementia specialists to put in these art therapy activities.”

In a recent session, residents had the opportunity to engage with flowers, cotton plants and gum tree branches.

To the great joy of the staff delivering this activity, the spread of drawings, flowers and books created a talking point for residents, and they interacted extensively.

One resident at St Mary’s sparked interest in the cotton plants and told staff a story about his youth.

“He worked up in Queensland at a sheep and cattle farm, but cotton blew around,” Mrs Trandberg recalled.

“Back in those days you did not have a lot of money for things, so they would pick up the bits of cotton and use them as filters for rollies.

“It is quite a lovely sensory experience and there is ritual and performance for people in things they love, and feel comforted in.

“The whole act of getting the tobacco out of the packet and putting it on the paper, adjusting the cotton and rolling it up is associated with smoking and relaxation so you prompt all different types of experiences for people.”

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