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Activities to Stimulate the Senses of Memory Care Residents

May 2016

For seniors experiencing Alzheimer’s or other memory loss conditions, one of their greatest frustrations is not being able to enjoy or remember the activities or hobbies they once loved. Things that used to be familiar feel unreachable or impossible. This new reality can be disheartening not only for the senior but also their family and friends as they try to engage them.

When Grace House’s Activities Coordinator plans any type of activity for our memory care residents, the goal is to make them feel successful. It doesn’t matter if they do the activity correctly or even if the activity is completed, the critical thing is that they are engaged and having a good time.

Activities that engage the five senses are very important. Seniors suffering from dementia might not remember how to bake their family’s famous cookie recipe, but when presented with a bowl of dough, it would not be surprising to experience just how quickly they start rolling it out, just like they used to. Muscles tend to remember things the mind has forgotten.

Here are some helpful activity ideas for seniors with memory difficulties. Our Activities Coordinator uses many of these games and activities at Grace House every day.

The Sense of Touch

We as humans crave touch. Babies respond to being held.  As we age, the need for touch remains. A warm hand can make a huge difference to a senior suffering from dementia on a rough day. Here are some imaginative ways to integrate touch into an activity:

  • Use feathers, terry cloths, textured massagers, etc. on the back of your loved one’s hand or arm to stimulate response

  • Plan a spa day, including manicures or pedicures

  • Give your loved one a back or neck massage

  • Schedule a visit with a therapy pet

  • Fold warm laundry together

  • Weed the garden

  • Brush your loved one’s hair

The Sense of Smell

Our senses can transport us to different times or places. The smell of fresh flowers might remind one person of spring in the country and a whiff of salt water might remind another of summer vacations at the beach. Using the sense of smell to engage someone with dementia is an ideal and meaningful activity. Here are a few ideas:

  • Purchase a bunch of fragrant fresh flowers to smell together.

  • Sample different perfumes or body sprays

  • Make lavender sachets

  • Brew mulling spices

  • Brew coffee

  • Peel oranges together

The Sense of Taste

Cooking or baking can evoke so many wonderful family memories. Food brings people together for many special moments including holidays, birthdays, picnics and barbeques, weddings and more. The activity of preparing and sharing food is so much more than just the tasting; it is about the stories, laughter and memories shared along the way. The activity opportunities are endless.  Here are just a few:

  • Sample different flavors and styles of tea

  • Taste familiar and classic candy treats including candy corn, peppermints, Smarties, jelly beans, etc.

  • Taste different flavors of ice cream

  • Dip pretzels in various sauces such as honey-mustard, spicy-ranch, BBQ sauce, etc.

  • Roll out pie or cookie dough and cut into shapes with cookie cutters

  • Spread peanut butter and jelly on crackers and enjoy

The Sense of Hearing

Music is a huge part of many significant moments in life. During birthday celebrations we sing around candlelit cake, we watch couples sway to their first dance at a wedding and during the holidays we sing familiar carols. These are simple ways that music and sound touches our hearts and becomes important memories in our lives. Here are a few ways you can engage a memory care resident with music:

  • Sing favorite Christmas carols, hymns, or songs together

  • Listen to music that invokes cherished memories

  • Watch a concert on Youtube or DVD

  • Play “Name That Tune”

  • Fill an iPod or MP3 player with favorite songs so that your loved one can listen to them anytime

The Sense of Seeing

Sometimes being able to see something beautiful can transform a difficult day for memory care residents. Create a space that is colorful and interesting without being too overwhelming. Try to focus on one bold sight at a time. Here are some activity ideas to stimulate the sense of seeing:

  • Color in coloring books together

  • Play dress up with old clothes and/or jewelry

  • Look at travel postcards together and talk about the places and things you’ve seen

  • Collect different colored autumn leaves together

  • Look through old photographs, newspapers, or magazines

  • Paint with watercolors

Our Activities Coordinator suggests that when planning an activity for someone who is coping with dementia, keep the plan loose. With memory care residents, it is unlikely that your plan will turn out exactly as you intended. That is why the goal is never the actual activity. The true goal is in hearing laughter, seeing smiles and knowing that for a moment, your loved one is happy. For those who are struggling with dementia, moods and feelings change on a moment-to-moment basis. But engagement through the senses is a great way to make those smiles come around a little more often.

For more information on Grace House Memory care, call Tiffany Ori, Executive Director at 614-252-5276.

NOTE: Some of the activity ideas for this blog were amended from this SeniorHomes article.   


Deciding When Your Loved One is Not Safe to Live Alone

What Are My Options?

April 2016

As a follow up on our last blog, if you’ve made the decision that your loved one needs to move, the next question you may ask yourself is “where?”

There are many senior living options. Choosing the right one depends on each senior’s needs and personal preferences. Here is a short summary of options generally available.

Independent Living (IL)
An independent living community is usually a multi-unit housing development that provides apartment style living. IL communities may also offer services such as meals, housekeeping, social activities, and transportation. Seniors often choose to live there for the companionship of friends nearby, as well as the amenities offered. Kensington Place offers an all-inclusive lifestyle for independent seniors that features award winning dining, top-notch health care, spacious and well-appointed apartments and a host of fitness, hobby and leisure areas designed for carefree retirement living. There are also IL facilities constructed for seniors on fixed incomes. These buildings offer safe community living at rents based on income level. Lutheran Social Services (LSS) operates many affordable buildings locally. Visit for more information.

Assisted Living (AL)
Assisted living facilities are for seniors needing assistance with daily living but also want to live as independently as possible. AL facilities offer help with activities such as bathing, dressing, housekeeping, and assistance with medications. Many facilities offer multiple tiers of care so that seniors only pay for the care that they need and can add services as they age. Kensington’s continuum of care model embraces all lifestyles and levels of care, allowing residents to enjoy maximum autonomy and independence in the most home-like setting possible.

Memory Care (MC)
Memory care specifically caters to residents with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other types of memory concerns. MC units should provide 24-hour supervised care in a separate wing or floor of a residential facility. In addition to providing assistance with activities of daily living as in an AL facility, memory care staff members are specially trained to assist residents with impaired cognition. The security of MC units is important to note so that resident wandering behavior is minimized and the environment is pleasant, safe and not overwhelming. Grace House at Kensington Place offers memory support care in a safe and secure environment reserved for a small number of very special residents. This home-like setting is designed to nurture and enhance each resident's mind, body and soul. It is important to us that each resident feel at home and thrive here.

Nursing and Rehabilitative Care
A nursing home is a long-term care facility licensed by the state that offers a full range of health care services, including basic and skilled nursing care and rehabilitation therapies. This could include memory care, occupational and physical therapy, disease management, IV therapy, wound management and more. Amenities are still important in these facilities and should include meals, housekeeping, laundry, transportation and more. Visit to search for facilities in your area and compare Medicare and Medicaid quality survey results.

Home Health Care
Of course, many seniors choose to stay at home as long as possible. This time can be extended with home health care or home care. These terms can be used interchangeably but there is an important distinction. While both types of care are provided at home, home care generally means household services such as laundry, cooking, cleaning and running errands. Home health care refers to the skilled level of care that requires medical training. This can include procedures such as IV insertion and management, occupational and physical therapy and pain management. LSS Home Health Care is a leading provider of skilled home health care and believes in integrating each patient’s strengths and support from family with the skills of a multidisciplinary medical team to maximize independence. Visit for more information.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC)
CCRCs provide care from independent living to assisted living to skilled nursing. They are designed to enable seniors with progressively declining health to remain in one location or to give healthy seniors the peace of mind that all their future needs are covered.

This is just a short overview of the many options available for seniors. Take the time to explore all the possibilities available. The Franklin County Office on Aging has many helpful resources to help you make the best decision for your family, visit

Deciding When Your Loved One is Not Safe to Live Alone

February 2016

It’s a common story. The whole family is gathered for the holidays. You are staying with your aging parents for a few days and you start to see things that are a little off or out of place. Maybe most of the food in the refrigerator is expired or the laundry hasn’t been done in a while. Or you’ve noticed that Mom is having trouble getting up from a chair or Dad has lost his keys multiple times over the weekend. These incidents could be signs that it’s no longer safe for your loved one to be living alone.  But how do you know for sure? There are a number of factors to consider.

First, study your loved one’s physical condition. Recent drastic weight loss, unexplained bruises or a marked loss of balance or strength may indicate that Mom is having trouble taking care of herself. Also keep an eye out for decreased grooming or a lack of clean clothes. These signs may be subtle but they can illustrate early physical limitations that can be dangerous.  Some specific signs to look for include:

  • Body odor
  • Disheveled appearance
  • Wrinkled or dirty clothing
  • Poor diet/no interest in cooking
  • Difficulty negotiating stairs or steps
  • Difficulty keeping balance

Other considerations are cognitive signs. Forgetfulness and confusion are red flags that should never be overlooked. These could be the first signs of dementia. Does Dad forget to take his medications? Has Mom gotten lost on her way to church? Never take these signs for granted. Some other signs could include:

  • Missing important deadlines or appointments
  • Doubt and confusion when doing familiar tasks
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of interest in favorite activities
  • Fluctuations in temperament or extreme mood swings
  • Forgetting to take prescribed medications
  • Signs of depression and feelings of isolation

Some signs are easiest to see in your loved one’s home. Look around for objects that are out of place or for signs of neglect. If there are new characteristics that are not as they have been in the past, this could signal that Mom or Dad need help with daily chores. Other signs could include:

  • Spoiled or expired food in the refrigerator
  • Strong smell in the house
  • Dirt, extreme untidiness or excess laundry
  • Overflowing unopened mail
  • Calls from bill collectors or late payment notices
  • Unexplained dents and scratches on the car or in the home

If you’ve experienced enough of these signs to decide that your loved one is no longer able to live alone, the resulting conversation will be difficult. However, it’s best to have it before anything dangerous happens. Making Mom or Dad part of the decision making process will make it easier for them to accept. There are plenty of options that you and your loved one can review.

If Mom just needs some help taking care of her home, you can hire a home care service to help with daily living needs like grocery shopping and cleaning. For medical services like medication management or wound care, you’ll need to hire a home health care service. LSS Home Health Care provides top-notch and dignified medical care by highly trained medical professionals. Other options may be to enroll your loved one in an adult day center or move your parent into your home. For those who need 24 hour help or are feeling isolated, an assisted living facility may be the best decision. The team at Kensington Place in Columbus would be happy to show you the benefits of moving Mom into a place where she is safe, well-cared for and among friends. Call us at 614-252-5276 for a personal tour today.

Take the time to explore all the possibilities available. The Franklin County Office on Aging has many helpful resources to help you make the best decision for your family, visit For more information on LSS Home Health Care, visit

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