Tactile Stimulation for Seniors with Dementia

Making conscious tactile and tangible connections can be beneficial for seniors living with dementia. The practice of Tactile Stimulation is a method employed to help individuals with dementia connect to their environment with their sense of touch. The process can have tremendous psychological, emotional, and cognitive benefits.

What is Tactile Stimulation?

Tactile Stimulation is the practice of using physical stimuli to deliberately elicit a range of sensations through the sense of touch. Interaction with items of different textures, shapes, sizes, and consistency can help individuals with dementia relate their sense of touch to things that surround them in their everyday lives.

Tactile Stimulation and Dementia

Seniors living with the realities of dementia often face sensory difficulties that can inhibit their experience of daily life in significant ways. Using Tactile Stimulation to help seniors with dementia better connect with their sense of touch can play a role in adjusting to some of the challenging facets of life that accompany dementia.

Benefits of Tactile Stimulation

Seniors with dementia are presented with a range of potential complications in daily life like isolation, anxiety, apprehension, melancholy, 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 faced by individuals with dementia.

  • Emotional Benefits: Tactile Stimulation can foster a boost in mood and a chance to interact and express oneself in a way that can help improve emotional health and self-esteem. Engaging with things in a tactile way can also help create a sense of calm that can ease anxiety and agitation.
  • Cognitive Benefits: As seniors focus on the objects and textures they are interacting with, concentration and critical thought come into play in ways that can help exercise the brain and improve cognitive fitness.
  • Social Benefits: Tactile Stimulation is an activity that can be adapted to include social activity. This can come in the form of friends and family getting together to engage in tactile connections, or it could be a group of fellow individuals living with dementia all working together to navigate and interact with the tactile world.

Integrating Tactile Stimulation

Getting seniors involved in purposeful interactions with tactile elements in their environment can be simple and straightforward. It can be as easy as setting up the home environment in a way that highlights different textures, sizes, and shapes. It may involve setting aside some time to sit down on a regular basis and engage with different and varied objects one by one.

The following are a few of the many ways in which seniors can connect more often and more profoundly to their sense of touch:

  • Petting Animals – running your fingers through an animal’s fur helps establish a solid connection and can reduce stress and anxiety
  • Crafting – engaging in activities like finger painting, cutting and pasting, knitting, and things of that nature can be very stimulating
  • Massage – this is a great way to relieve tension and increase stimulation
  • Working with Clay – play-dough molding or creating sculptures with clay is often considered therapeutic and is a great way to establish tactile connection
  • Washing – even something as simple as using sponges with soap and water offers tactile stimulation
  • Interpersonal Touch – hugs, handshakes, and other methods of physical contact are effective for connecting with other individuals
  • Texture Exploration – This involves actively sitting down with a variety of objects of different textures just to feel them in the hands or on the body. Some items to use may include fabrics, beads, sandpaper, stuffed animals, toys, liquids, lotions, anything with an interesting texture

Tactile Stimulation is already a part of seniors’ everyday lives, but making it a purposeful and mindful practice can be extremely helpful for seniors who are dealing with dementia.


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