Our experience of the things around us is heavily informed by our senses, one of which is the sense of touch.
The practice of Tactile Stimulation is something that can help seniors with Dementia to connect to their sense of touch and, therefore, to elements of the world around them in a way that can be helpful psychologically, emotionally, and cognitively.
What is Tactile Stimulation?
Tactile Stimulation is, in essence, simply making a purposeful use of physical things to foster a connectedness to the sense of touch. Interaction with items of different textures, shapes, sizes, and feelings can help individuals relate to their sense of touch and to things that surround them in their everyday lives.
Tactile Stimulation and Dementia
Individuals living with the realities of Dementia often face sensory difficulties that can impact their experience of daily life in meaningful ways. Using Tactile Stimulation to help seniors with Dementia better connect with their sense of touch can help play a role is adjusting to some of the facets of life that come along with Dementia.
Many seniors with Dementia face things like isolation, anxiety, nervousness, sadness, confusion, and other negative emotions that can take their toll. The integration of Tactile Stimulation into seniors’ routines has the potential to help to address and ease the intensity of some of these problems in various areas.
- Emotional: Tactile Stimulation can foster a boost in mood and a chance to interact and express oneself in a way that can help to improve emotional health and self-esteem. Engaging with things in a tactile way can also help to create a sense of calm that can ease anxiety and agitation.
- Cognitive: As seniors focus on the objects and textures they are interacting with, concentration and thought come into play in ways that can help to exercise the brain and help with cognitive fitness.
- Social: Tactile Stimulation is an activity that can be made social. Whether it be a routine for friends and family to visit to engage together or a group of fellow individuals living with Dementia, seniors can visit with others while they interact with the tactile world.
Integrating Tactile Stimulation
Getting seniors involved in purposeful interactions with tactile elements of their environment can be really easy. Whether it is setting up the home environment in a way that highlights different textures, sizes, and shapes, or actually setting aside some time to sit down on a regular basis and engage with different and varied objects one by one. The following are just a few of the many ways in which seniors can connect more often to their sense of touch:
- Petting Animals (i.e. running fingers through fur)
- Crafting (i.e. finger painting, cutting and pasting, knitting etc.)
- Massage (i.e. head, hand, arms, feet etc.)
- Clay (i.e. play-dough molding)
- Washing (i.e. water, sponges, soap)
- Interpersonal Touch (i.e. handshake, hug)
- Texture Exploration: Actively sitting down with a variety of objects of different textures just to feel them in the hands or on the body. Things like various fabrics, beads, sandpaper, stuffed animals, toys, water etc.
Tactile Stimulation is something that is already a part of seniors’ everyday lives, but making it a purposeful and important part of the routine can be helpful for seniors who are dealing with Dementia.