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Sensory Stimulation in dementia

According to quote below, sensory stimulation in dementia can apply toward therapy for dementia.  It says that by using the five senses in a certain order, this sequence will make sensory stimulation more effective.  For example, it says to stimulate the sense of smell first because this is “primitive” and the sense from smell to the brain is fast.  The article says to use the sense of taste last.

“What led you to develop the Bright Eyes intervention?

I developed the intervention after reading the work of Carol Bowlby, who is an occupational therapist from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Actually, it represents a practical, clinical application of her work. She first described her work using sensory stimulation applied in a sensory hierarchy, which begins with stimulating the sense of smell, then kinesthetic/movement ( gross motor activity) , and then moves to stimulate in turn the sense of touch, the sense of vision, then hearing, and finally the sense of taste. In her model, these senses are stimulated in this order for a reason. The sense of smell is a very primitive sense. I mean, the neuropath that goes from the olfactory nerve to the brain is fairly short and direct, so even someone with advanced dementia or even someone who is unconscious might still have access to that sensory pathway. Using smelling salts, for example, can rouse someone who's passed out. It's the same kind of effect that you can get using a less noxious olfactory/sensory cue: people with dementia become awakened, in a way, through smell.”


- Bright Eyes, A Sensory Stimulation Intervention for Patients with Advanced Dementia:  An Interview with Scott A.Trudeau, MA, OTR/L


According to editorial below, using sensory stimulation as an alternative form of therapy before admitting a patient into an institution must be done first, in addition to other types of therapy.  However, the point of view does recognize that drugs may be necessary as an intervention in scary and self-harmful cases.

BMJ 2002;325:1312-1313 ( 7 December ) Editorials

"Sensory stimulation in dementia"

"An effective option for managing behavioural problems"

"Most older people with dementia at some point in their illness develop psychiatric symptoms or behavioural disturbances such as agitation, aggression, depression, delusions, wandering, sleep disturbance, and hallucinations. Collectively, these are termed behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia…Read more."

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