Tactile stimulation for dementia
Abrasive, slippery, bendable, cold, furry, soft, dry, wet, feathery, rough, hard, sticky, prickly, silky, wooden. These are all different words to describe texture.
We all touch and feel within our environment daily without really thinking about it; the texture of soft slippers on your feet, the touch of a feather to your face, holding someone’s hand…
As a caregiver you could have a texture activity session, either with an individual or a group. Bring objects such as for example a sponge, fabric and carpet samples, various fruits, something from the garden, see what is in your kitchen drawers. Touch and discuss the objects, maybe close the eyes for a more intense experience.
This can also be a great mental exercise.
Ask the participant(s) to describe an item. The texture, shape, color, weight, height etc. A feather for example; it can be soft, feathery, yellow, beautiful, 4” long, have a hard stem, be light, feel ticklish etc. A fun exercise with unlimited possibilities.
Tactile stimulation can be active or passive. Being the recipient of a hand, foot, head, shoulder, neck or other massage can be a lovely experience. You don’t have to be a professional to deliver a hand massage, gently rubbing some favorite hand cream into a person’s hands or feet is a good way to offer a feel-good experience and it is also a nice opportunity for social contact. Be aware that as we age, our skin becomes thinner and a gentle touch is advised as skin can break.
Touch can give rise to many different emotions; comfort, nostalgia, happiness and so on. It is a particularly good activity for dementia as it can be used in the all different stages of this condition. In the earlier stages tactile activities can be used as active engagements as described above, and in the later stages of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, personal touch like holding hands, a soft blanket or stuffed animal may provide comfort and engagement.
More about texture in the post “Rummage Bag” if you would like another example of a tactile activity.