Talking is not the only method of communicating with someone who has Alzheimer’s. Sensory stimulation can be equally as effective in keeping the brain active.
The 5 Primary Senses
Sight, taste, smells, sound and touch can all be used to encourage a response, this is because these primary sensory areas are mostly unaffected by Alzheimer’s. It is a gift to allow an unresponsive person the opportunity to respond in some way to the world around them, even if it just means reactivating the smallest sensation of perceiving pleasure or curiosity in their immediate environment, which extends into their daily lives.
In many cases it has been known to awaken areas of the brain to the point where small tasks such as stirring tea, and verbally responding to simple questions or statements come as a direct result of sensory stimulation. Of course not everyone who is disabled into a non-responsive mode by the disease will show such marked improvement, but there is definitely a subconscious response which elicits certain feelings. That in itself stirs up areas of the brain that can otherwise shut down when memory and verbal communication is removed.
Introducing Sensory Communication
The best way to introduce sensory communication is to go back to the time before symptoms of the disease struck. Find something that will be familiar to the person with Alzheimer’s, the more familiar the better. Try and use everyday objects and only focus on one sense at a time. If you are using flowers for example, place the item into their hands and allow the person to get used to feeling the leaves, the stem and the petals of the flower before encouraging them to use their sense of smell by lifting the flower to their nose. If they are able to, then re-teach them how to respond to the item, such as putting flowers in a vase and always talk about what you are doing using familiar terminology.
As a carer, try to view everyday tasks as a series of opportunities to encourage non-verbal communication with a patient. Just remember not to push someone if they seem tired or show signs of frustration. These sensory experiences should always elicit positive feelings and memories.