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Sensory Stimulation in People with Alzheimer’s

Sensory stimulation in people with Alzheimer’s disease allows the development of cognitive, emotional, motor and psychosocial functions. In addition, it facilitates learning through sensation and perception.

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Alzheimer’s is a neurodegenerative disease that, unfortunately and as a consequence of the aging of the population, is becoming more and more present. A cure has not yet been found, but there are different interventions that can delay its progress or reduce the intensity of symptoms in people with Alzheimer’s disease. An example would be sensory stimulation.

This type of intervention focuses on the senses, on what reaches the person outside. Let’s think that a person with Alzheimer’s will be able to see their cognitive capacity deteriorated; even at the emotional level, his capacity to regulate emotions, but he will not lose his primitive capacity: that of feeling. This is precisely what we want to take advantage of when we perform a sensory simulation.

In this article we will see what sensory stimulation consists of in people with Alzheimer’s, how it is performed and what its potential benefits are. Can you come with us?

Alzheimer’s disease, brief description

Alzheimer’s disease consists of a neurodegenerative disorder that affects different functions of the organism. In this way, it manifests itself in the physical, cognitive, emotional and behavioral plane (executive functions).

One of the first indicators that turns on the alarm signal is memory loss. The increase of misleading or disorientation (either in time or space). The person needs more precise and spaced instructions to follow a plan, the initiative decreases and the amplitude of vocabulary is also reduced, losing precision in the communication.

In addition, Alzheimer’s disease makes it difficult to carry out tasks of daily life that previously the person performed, by dominated and simple, with a minimum expenditure of resources. It also affects the emotional level, because the irritation or impotence due to the lost ground can make the person very irritable.

There are different theories about its origin. Some point to the formation of neurofibrillary tangles, that is, an abnormal conglomeration of proteins that are made up of small fibers that intertwine within the neurons in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Tau protein is also involved in this process: the main component of tangles.

Sensory stimulation, what does it consist of?

When we speak of sensory stimulation, we refer to a set of techniques and exercises that produce an activation of the senses through stimuli. Then, we speak of a kind of awakening of the senses. The objective of this intervention is to favor the entry of sensory information into the nervous system; in this way we facilitate that the person manages to elaborate a set of sensations and perceptions.

Through this stimulation, the person learns; what will serve as a seat and reinforcement for cognitive functions that are weakened, for the understanding of the world around him and for emotional expression.

Sensory stimulation in people with Alzheimer’s disease

Sensory stimulation in people with Alzheimer’s disease is a type of non-pharmacological intervention, which helps during the process of the disease. It consists of awakening the sensations and perceptions of patients.

To achieve the objective of sensory stimulation in people with Alzheimer’s disease, the systems are stimulated:

  • Visual.
  • Auditory.
  • Vestibular
  • Tactile.
  • Olfactory.
  • Gustatory.

However, the intervention is carried out in multisensory rooms or Snoezelen. These rooms arise in the 70s in Holland thanks to Hulsegge and Ad Verheul. In addition, these spaces are directed to three types of activity: relaxation, interactivity and discovery.

On the other hand, multisensory stimulation in Snoezelen rooms is based on the sensory integration model. Now, this model was developed by Anne Jean Ayres, an occupational therapist and American neuroscientist. In this framework, cognitive, sensory, motor and psychosocial components are worked on, which are stimulated in three rooms: white room, black room and adventure room. In addition, according to the activity there are rooms of passive and active type.

  • Passive. It is about the activities in which the person enters an environment that stimulates it through sensory effects.
  • Active. It consists of activities in which the individual participates and learns. Thus, you are encouraged to become aware of the effects of his performance on the environment.
  • White room. The white color is what prevails in these rooms. The objective is to provide a relaxed environment where the person is stimulated passively,
  • Black or dark space. They are rooms where UV light and elements that shine are mostly used. Thus, people have powerful stimuli.
  • Immersion in adventure. In this room there is not as much play with the lights as in the others. It has material that favors sensorial, cognitive and motor development. Materials with different textures, colors, and smells are presented.

These activities are carried out by professionals from different health professions. Thus, they intervene: doctors, clinical psychologists, neuropsychologists, nurses, and occupational therapists, among others.

Also, the idea is to intervene in people with Alzheimer’s disease in different stages, but it is more favorable to do them in the initial and intermediate stages of this disease.

Sensory stimulation: a valuable resource against Alzheimer’s

We have already explained what sensory stimulation is in people with Alzheimer’s. But, what are its benefits? Let’s see:

  • Opportunity for movement and activity.
  • Emotional expression
  • It favors the perception of sensations.
  • Acquisition of learning.
  • Promotes interaction with the environment.
  • Taking consciousness of sensations and perceptions.
  • Facilitate communication
  • It provides feeling of well-being.
  • Increase attention and concentration time.
  • Diminishes apathy, aggressiveness and disruptive behaviors.

Certainly, this type of work must be done in a rigorous way, and requires self-organization, adaptation to the environment, creativity and the motivated participation of those involved. This is suggested by Monsalve Robayo and Rozo Reyes, in their article for the Colombian Journal of Psychiatry.

So, there are techniques that provide well-being in people with Alzheimer’s disease. Sensory stimulation is one of them. Through this unique intervention, steps are added so that people with this disease have a better quality of life. Thus, relief is also generated for caregivers.

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