This funny little man is proportioned according to the touch receptors in the body. As you can see, the hands, the face, the feet have more than their fair share of nerves. Stimulation to these areas will send many more signals to the brain than will stimulation to the torso or arm or legs. And there are correspondingly disproportionate areas of the brain that receive the incoming signals.

Fidgeting, holding and playing with things, becomes an obsession with many people who have dementia, and the sensory feedback to the brain is at least part of the reason why. It is not entirely different from babies and small children being obsessed with exploring with their hands and mouths. It is important to provide tactile stimulation to those in your care. Hand and foot and face massages provide passive tactile stimulation. A barefoot walk in the grass and a sensory box like I showed earlier are excellent active stimulations.

This is an overhead view of the brain. The frontal lobe is pointing up in the picture. At the very back of the frontal lobe is the motor cortex, here in that off-red color; that’s the part of the brain that controls voluntary muscle activity. Just behind the motor cortex in the parietal lobe is the somatosensory cortex, pictured in blue. The somatosensory cortex receives electrical impulses coming in from different parts of the body, providing us with our sense of touch.

Here is another look at our friend Homunculus. His rather disconnected body is spread across a section of the motor cortex. Homunculus’ face is aligned with a large section of that motor cortex which controls facial movement, his elbow with a rather smaller section, etc. You can see that the volume of brain dedicated to controlling the face and hands is again disproportionately large. This can be a little hard to see at first… <This might be a little unclear and need some explanation. Draw on the monitor, etc.>

And here is Homunculus spread across the somatosensory cortex. You can see how the area of the brain that controls movement in a part of the body is closely relates to the area that receives messages and feedback from that part.  Nerves in the fingers send messages to the somatosensory cortex which communicates with the motor cortex which then sends instructions back to the fingers about what to do next. These connections between different lobes and sections are crucial to our functioning.

And now things get really interesting. Until very recently the mature brain was thought to be relatively immutable. Neurologists told us that the brain structure didn’t really change once we reached adulthood. We go on learning, synaptic connections are created, but new brain cells just didn’t happen. Some new discoveries have changed the way we think about that. We now know that the brain does change and reorganize itself, that it can actually increase in mass depending on need and use. This phenomenon is called brain plasticity, and is one of the most exciting new areas in neuroscience. Brain plasticity is fueled by how the brain is stimulated.

As humans we have an intimate relationship to music. Listening to music is an excellent sensory stimulation; who doesn’t enjoy music? Playing music is even more stimulating. Creating music – not composing but creating the sounds – is multi-sensory. It involves hearing and somatic senses. Instrumental musicians have become favorite subjects for brain studies, and these studies have reached some exciting conclusions. One is that pianists and violinists have enlarged areas of their somatosensory and motor cortices when compared to non-musicians. It is not just that they are more able to discern tone and pitch, or recognize harmony and dissonance, but their brains have actually grown as a result of their practice. Furthermore, the right motor cortex is more changed in violin players, whose left hands are more active. The cortex is enlarged on the left in piano players, who are more active with their right hands.

 

One more study, this one involving mice brains. A group at MIT put mice into a water maze. The mice would swim around randomly until they found a hidden platform which allowed them to get out of the water. Soon the mice were able to swim directly to the platform. Then the researchers did something that was not so nice – they gave the mice Alzheimer’s disease. Back in the maze the mice swam around randomly once again. They forgot their training.

The investigators then put half of the demented mice into an enriched environment with a running wheel and other colorful toys, an environment one of the researchers called “Disneyland for mice.” The control group was kept in their cages with little for stimulation but the food they got at mealtimes. After a time both groups were re-tested in the maze. The control group performed as expected; they had no idea where the platform was. However, the mice who had gone to Disneyland swam to the platform pretty much as they had before their memories had been altered.

Even this laboratory hardened group of researchers was amazed. They had assumed that their procedure had erased all memory of the training, just as we assume that Alzheimer’s disease erases memory. The scientists had to re-examine their assumption and they concluded that it was not the memory that was lost but access to the memory was destroyed. And it is entirely possible that Alzheimer’s works like that, erasing connections and not memories. Could enough of the right type of stimulation help reconnect to lost memories?

I know what you are thinking, and no, I don’t want you to teach your 92 year old grandmother to play the violin, unless she really wants to and shows some aptitude. I also don’t suggest a running wheel. And by all means don’t let her drive in London. There are more appropriate ways to provide sensory and brain stimulation. I was able to get enough of these Brainpaths from the manufacturer for everyone here. This simple device provides similar sensory feedback as fingering violin strings. The idea for it is actually based on some of these recent discoveries in neuroscience. Tracing the grooves in this plastic disk with your fingers stimulates the 3000 or so receptors in each fingertip which, as we have seen, stimulates the somatosensory cortex, which in turn signals the motor cortex.

And here is a picture of the somatosensory cortex being stimulated by this activity. This is a functional magnetic resonance imaging scan of the brain of someone using one of these Brainpaths. Compare this to the image we saw earlier of the somatosensory cortex…

The red spots in the fMRI scan indicate high activity. Notice how closely those spots correspond to the position of Homunculus’ hand on the somatosensory cortex. Our contention that sensory stimulation is brain stimulation is further substantiated. Furthermore – – – I find it amazing that we can image the brain like that, don’t you?!
It is an exciting time for the science of neurology and brain study. I read recently that we have learned more about the brain in the last five years than in the five thousand years previous. Recent advances in brain-imaging technology have given us some incredible tools for studying this most complex structure in the known universe: tools like the fMRI, the EEG, SPECT scan, and CT scan and the PET scan. I’m sure that many of you know more than I do about these machines. Some of you could probably even tell me what those letters stand for – because I’d like to know. Anyway, these special tools allow us to watch electrical activity and blood flow in the brain as it responds to different stimuli and situations.

This image from the brain on Brainpaths is a good example of how this new technology can help us study the brain. In this picture we see how a simple somatic input affects the corresponding part of the somatosensory cortex. Sensory input, however, is rarely this simple. Looking at a painting, especially a well done piece, can light up the brain like a Christmas tree. Art can trigger responses in creative centers, emotional centers, the prefrontal cortex which makes judgements, and more. Art can also evoke memories and reminiscences.

When you read a book more than just language and visual centers are stimulated, as this image illustrates. If you read about running, the parts of your brain associated with running are activated. If the protagonist in your book is cooking and describing the odors in the kitchen, the olfactory centers of your brain can be activated.

 

Interestingly, here is a comparative picture from an fMRI scan showing the brain while surfing the internet. Little wonder we waste so much time doing so. And the positive effects often last for days and weeks. I think I have another image here, one of the brain while watching situation comedy on TV. Yes…

Neuroscientists are finding experimental evidence that we may be able to remember lost memories. In a study at MIT, mice were made to forget a certain task by the introduction of a toxic protein used mimics Alzheimer’s disease in experimental subjects. By then putting the mice into a sensory-rich environment the mice regained the ability to complete the forgotten task. The stimulation rewired the brain to remember the lost memory!

Alternative Television for Alzheimer's

For better or worse, whether we like it or not, television is a part of almost everyone’s life. For a person with dementia, television viewing is often a part of an overall program of activity. This is not necessarily a bad thing: television can be relaxing, informative, and enjoyable. It becomes a bad thing when it is overused, when it becomes the predominant or the only activity available.

We all want the people we are caring for to continue to enjoy as many familiar activities as possible. Program selection is an important consideration when television watching becomes an activity for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. Because the disease affects the way that experiences become memories, a person in even the early stages may find it difficult to follow a plot, to remember at the end of a movie or TV program what had happened at the beginning, and so the story becomes rather meaningless.

The nightly news is not any better: seeing and hearing about what is happening in the world can be upsetting to any of us. Add a cognitive problem to the mix, and the news can become downright frightening. A story about a missing child can become much too real for a person with dementia; the missing child becomes her young son; finding that child becomes an overwhelming concern!

Bombings in Libya or one of the many other hot-spots in the world might be construed as an attack on the neighborhood. A burning building on the evening news can be interpreted to mean that, “My house is on fire!”

Although the news, movies, and regular programming are not necessarily inappropriate, for the most part, they are just not good selections for a person with memory or cognitive problems. Cable and dish access broadens our options to include categories like cooking, travel, history, science, and many others. Cable or dish, if available, provide choices that are the beginning of what we call Alternative Television for Alzheimer’s.

Alternative Television For Alzheimer’s

So let’s watch alternative television. Best Alzheimer’s Products offers several options.

Gonna Do A Little Music

Gonna Go A Little Music

 

Respite Videos (DVD)

We also like the Respite (DVD) Videos. These were produced specifically for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Each of the thirteen videos provides the caregiver with a way to improve his or her own quality of life by providing an entertaining DVD for the person in his or her care. As caregivers, we can all use a short period of rest or relief from the often difficult challenges of caring for someone with dementia.

These DVD’s are designed to hold the attention of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia through music, light movement, and reminiscence. They also provide socialization and sensory and cognitive stimulation.

The people on the videos become very real friends to the people who are watching. As they have a conversation, or sing together, or remember times in the past, you are able to have some time away from the caregiver role, time to prepare a meal, to write a letter, to read a book.

These DVD’s are wonderful additions to an overall care strategy. All are ideal aids for caring for a person with dementia in the home, and they also work well in a group situation, in care communities and Alzheimer’s day care.

The broad variety of subjects and presenters ensures that there is a video for everyone. You can see an overview of the Respite Videos.

SHOP RESPITE VIDEOS

Nature DVD’s

Finally, for a calming experience, our Nature DVD’s are perfect. Entertainment for people with

Alzheimer’s is not much different from entertainment for the rest of us. Sometimes we just want to watch something soothing and relaxing. What better option than beautiful natural scenery and original music?

In our experience, people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia respond very well to nature and beautiful music. These DVD’s are made to bring the world into your home. An undersea reef, the Amazon Jungle, majestic mountains, a Caribbean island; all can be enjoyed in the comfort of your living room. They can be thought of as music for the eyes, and provide a relaxing ambiance whenever they are playing. They are accompanied by relaxing or energizing music, natural sounds, or both.

These magnificent DVD’s provide hours of viewing and listening enjoyment. See our entire collection, or view selected video clips.

SHOP NATURE DVD’s

Read more

Serenity Babies | the ultimate in doll therapy for Alzheimer's and dementia

The Ultimate in Doll Therapy

We are taking orders for Serenity Babies, dolls that promise to take doll therapy to a whole other level. These dolls are handmade, and at the risk of sounding clichéd, by craftsmen using only the finest materials. Here are some of the specifications that qualify the Serenity Babies as newborns:

This little girl runs on our imagination and not on batteries. That’s what makes us feel young again…. each that hold her will pretend she’s real but the feelings thoughts memories and emotions they experience are genuine.
~Mark W

Serenity Babies Specifications:

  • Sculpts (the head, arms, and other parts of the doll that show and look like skin) are made of heirloom quality soft German vinyl.
  • Hair is alpaca or mohair, and micro-rooted. Micro-rooting is a meticulous process whereby individual strands of hair, or a few strands at a time, are rooted into the dolls scalp. (Alpaca is so fine that it would be almost impossible to root one strand at a time.) This method ensures the most realistic results. Hair can be gently washed, brushed and styled. Without hair is an option – the price for bald babies is lower. Call for details.

    Serenity Babies | lifelike dolls for doll therapy for Alzheimer's disease

    Ivy’s feet | closeup showing the remarkable detail

  • Multiple coats of a special heat set paint result in very realistic skin tones (you can see that from the pictures) — the heat-setting makes the finish extremely durable.
  • Each doll is carefully weighted with glass beads to feel and move just like a real baby when held. The sensory feedback derived from this feature adds a dimension to doll therapy that is not possible from most other dolls.

The above is not a list of the benefits of doll therapy; this is a list of why Serenity babies provide a more realistic therapy experience. Read more about doll therapy.

Call 877/300.3021 to order your Serenity Baby today!

Following is a letter from Mark W. to Cindy, creator of the Serenity Babies. Mark had just received a doll that he was going to gift to an assisted living residence. Baby Doll therapy for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God I said the more I stared at this little angel and noticed all the details. The bare foot in one hand and a sock in the other is so cute and childlike. The residents at the assisted living home my grandmother spent the last year and a half of her life at will be so blessed to hold and admire this beautiful angel. She will have the gift to mend a moment of loneliness and spoil a feeling of sadness. To each that hold her will pretend she’s real but the feelings thoughts memories and emotions they experience are genuine. I will be honored to gift her to a wonderful home for its residents and staff. This little girl runs on our imagination and not on batteries. That’s what makes us feel young again. Thank you Cindy for the picture and the updates. Is it a possibility that all 3 dolls could be finished by May 1st? I have relatives coming from Washington May 2nd to sprinkle my grandmother’s ashes in Duluth. I would like to show off the dolls before family heads back home.

CALL TO ORDER! 877/300.3021

Serenity Babies are Not to be Believed!

But they are not inexpensive. Serenity Babies with rooted hair (alpaca or mohair) start at $2500. Bald or with painted hair are a little less expensive. On the other hand, we have never heard anyone who has one say they paid too much.

If you have any questions, please call us toll free at 877/300.3021! (U.S. and Canada) or Contact Us.

Serenity Babies | lifelike dolls for doll therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Michelle with her favorite bear

These Dolls Are Not Mass Produced

Because each Serenity Baby doll is made special, it takes about three weeks, maybe four, to get once the doll is ordered. Think of it as a short gestation period rather than a longer-than-normal wait for your order. We will start carrying a limited selection of these that will be available immediately, but you will not be able to choose features; on the other hand, they will be very cute! Also because each doll is made individually, by hand, no two dolls are the same. The dolls pictured in the store are representative; each one pictured is similar to the doll that will come to you when you select that doll to purchase. But since each doll is unique and made to order, we can’t use the normal sales process, so—

Call 877/300.3021 to order your Serenity Baby today!


The following is a partial transcript of a recent television interview, Feb 27, 2013. Trish Van Pilsum of KMSP-TV in Minneapolis, MN, talks to Cindy and Daryl Lindbloom, the makers of the Serenity Babies:

Peace comes from calm cuddling of one of the babies born at the Loving Hearts Nursery in St. Joseph, and something magical happens each time one of those babes is brought out into the world.

They are so convincing that they can fool a genuine model — and his mother. They’re so surprisingly realistic that few realize they are actually lifelike dolls.

In fact, the serenity babies are so like the real thing, it’s hard to resist the urge to talk to them.

“Hi sweetheart,” said Florence, who lives at the Johanna Shores Senior Community in Arden Hills. “Do you see me?”

While Florence knows she is not holding a real baby, that doesn’t matter.

“Let’s see if you can do a little patty cake,” she coos at the baby.

The therapists at the elderly care facility, which bought five serenity babies for the residents to share, say it only takes an instant for the babe to bring out joy.

“The instant you put it in their arms, they are cooing and awing,” Nancy said. “It reaches down in them somewhere and it pulls out that feeling of joy.”

But that joy gestates slowly. Cindy and Daryl Lindbloom build the dolls in what they call a nursery, not a studio — even though what they create is art.

“Some people call it a craft,” Daryl Lindbloom said. “I think when you take it to this level, it’s art.”

The man who is more inclined toward engines paints with precision that tickles just to watch as he creates what he calls 3-D interactive art. He starts with the skin tone. After drying in the oven, the detail will come on another day.

Little veins in the skin get blended as layers go over it, and it’s so precise that your eyes will swear the doll is a real baby until you touch it.

Even then, the weighted limbs make the dolls move in a lifelike way when they’re scooped up. The Lindblooms use fine glass beads inside nylons to create the effect, and each one is unique.

“No two of them are alike,” Daryl Lindbloom explained. “It gives each one their own little personality.”

Serenity Babies | lifelike dolls for doll therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Ivy sucking her little thumb

Little personalities are something the Lindblooms know a lot about. They had three of their own children and fostered many others. In the 80s, the couple cared for infants of teen mothers until the babes were ready to go to permanent homes.

“You cry when they leave, but you know they are going to a great place,” Cindy Lindbloom said. “Just seeing the happiness on the adoption people’s faces, that made me happy.”

It’s a bit like that with the serenity babies too.

For some at the Johanna Shores Senior Community, memories don’t come so easily any more — but something about the babies in the memory care unit that revives something special.

“There is a change and they start reminiscing about their babies, about when they were babies, when their siblings were babies,” Nancy explained.

Though Roger can’t recall whether he combed his hair in the morning, seeing the serenity baby helps him hear sounds from long ago.

“The baby songs my wife used to sing to my five kids come back to my memory,” he said. “She made it up, I’m sure.”

The therapeutic potential is clearly there.

“For women, it raises our oxytocin, and the oxytocin level is known as the ‘happy hormone’ or the ‘comforting hormone,'” Cindy Lindbloom said. One woman who had lost a baby was drawn to the dolls, along with a young man.

“The guy got tears in his eyes. He said it’s just so touching,” Cindy Lindbloom recalled. “He goes, ‘Yeah, we can’t have any more children.'”
While some see the dolls as collectibles, the Lindblooms really love to see their work delivered to the arms of those who need the feeling only holding a baby can bring.

“It’s hard to describe,” Daryl Lindbloom said. “I think it’s something inside us, just the need to nurture something.”

The Lindblooms know that feeling is a very real thing — even if the baby is not.

 

Serenity Babies | lifelike dolls for doll therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Michelle in Pink Hoodie

Call to Order Serenity Babies

These precious dolls are made to order so please call us (toll free in the U.S. and Canada) at 877/300.3021 to place your order. If we don’t answer, please leave a message. You can also send us a message by filling out this form. Either way, leave your contact information and we’ll get back to you.

A big part of the reason that we absolutely insist on having a conversation with you about your Serenity Baby is that you can choose the characteristics you want:

  • Sculpt – that’s the head, hands & feet
  • Hair Color
  • Eye Color
  • Skin Tone/Skin Color

 

Games and activities for Alzheimer's

Once we had a good start on the website, we began a search for games, puzzles, alarms, and other products that all of our research indicated would  benefit Bernice and others with Alzheimer’s disease.

That was not as easy as we thought it would be!

Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in a scene from The Band Wagon

That’s Entertainment

Entertainment for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is not much different from entertainment for the rest of us. We work, we play, we take care of those pesky things like shopping and paying bills that are a part of everyday living. Sometimes we just want to forget about all that and relax.

An entertainment is something that distracts us or diverts us from the routine of daily life. It makes us for the time being forget our cares….
~ Sir Herbert Read

So we look for entertainment, for something to take us away from our everyday world and put us, for a while, into a fantasy world, into the world of nature, or directly into ourselves. That might mean reading a book, going to a concert or just listening to a symphony recording, taking a hike, going for a swim or a bike ride, taking in a movie…. The list goes on and on.

The category list of entertainment for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia is very similar. It differs in the details. In the early stages, a dementia patient will likely enjoy the same forms of entertainment, the same movies and books, that he always did. As his disease progresses, the list gets shorter and the items change, but the need for entertainment remains. Make sure that the activities that you provide are stage-appropriate as well as age-appropriate.

Entertainment for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Entertainment media provide us with one of our biggest sources of reminiscence therapy. Old movies and television shows, recordings of old radio programs, live performances and recordings of songs and music from the 30s and 40s; any of these could inspire a memory. And the older movies are often better, not only because they are recognizable, but because they are simpler. More recent movies often have plots that are difficult to follow for anyone, let alone someone with cognitive challenges.

Movies and Documentaries

Feature movies are a first choice for many when it comes to finding a distraction from the routine of our daily life.  Musicals, comedies, and movies that feature dancing can provide entertainment without the need to follow a complex plot. What could be more iconic, or entertaining, than to watch Fred Astaire dancing on the silver screen, or even the TV screen, with any of his many partners. That’s Cyd Charisse with Fred in the picture at the top of this page in a scene from The Band Wagon. Many of these great old films are available at your local library in CD format.

Seasons: Spring & Summer | Ambient nature video from Best Alzheimer's ProductsNature at its best, accompanied by the sounds of nature or relaxing music.

BUY SEASONS SPRING & SUMMER

 

Nature documentaries are another entertaining option. Many rely heavily on the visual grandeur of their subject to tell the story. In our experience, people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia enjoy these immensely. Award winning documentary films like The  Planet Earth, and March of the Penguins are also available at most public libraries.

Other Video Entertainment

Beyond the documentary are nature videos set to music or the sounds of nature. No plot, no story line, but still immensely entertaining, stimulating and relaxing. This category of movie is made to bring the world into your home. An undersea reef, the Amazon Jungle, majestic mountains, a Caribbean island; all can be enjoyed in the comfort of your living room. These can be thought of as music for the eyes, and provide a relaxing ambiance whenever they are playing; no annoying talking to get in the way.

We carry a series of DVDs called the “Ambient Collection,” and it is just that. Beautiful natural scenery and original inspirational music provide hours of viewing and listening enjoyment.We have all experienced the hypnotic effect of a fire, or of colorful fish swimming in an aquarium. These encounters usually leave us feeling quiet, peaceful, and content. That is exactly the effect that our selection of ambient videos has on everyone that watches them. These are perfect viewed at the end of the day, to relax and prepare the mind and body for sleep. They are also good at any other time that a respite is needed from the daily chores. They provide visual, auditory, and mental stimulation, all perfect for reducing the aggression and agitation that are often symptoms of dementia including Alzheimer’s.

See our entire collection, or view selected video clips.

A reminder when ordering video: Order the video format that corresponds with your equipment. Blue Ray and High Definition DVD provide a much better picture, but they won’t play on standard DVD players. On the other hand, Your DVDs will most likely play on your Blue Ray player.

SHOP NATURE DVDs

Old Radio

A family gathers around the old radio for an evening of listening.

Before television there was radio.

Talk about iconic images from our past.  This young family may be waiting for the broadcast of a Jack Benny or Fibber McGee And Molly episode. From the look on the little boys face he is more likely anticipating sharing an adventure with The Shadow or riding with The Lone Ranger. To you this may be a quaint image of Americana, but if the little boy in this picture is alive today, there is about a 25% chance that he has dementia. He grew up in a time before television. If he is living with dementia today, memories of radio are probably more real to him than are the TV shows he watched later.

So many of those classic radio shows are lost, but not all of them. Unfortunately, the quality of these recordings is not always what it could be. For people who likely don’t hear as well as they did when the shows were first broadcast, listening to these less than perfect restorations might be more frustrating than anything. We are not recommending anything specific in this genre for that reason. This is not to say we are not looking for quality restorations of these old programs. If you know of any, please pass it along. And don’t be afraid to try if you find something. The right recording for the right person might be hypnotic.

This just in!  Well, no, but I just found them while doing an edit on this page (6/27/2014). There are several online locations to listen to hours and hours of old-time radio programs. I recommend Internet Archive. According to Wikipedia, “The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission of universal access to all knowledge. It provides permanent storage of and free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and nearly three million public-domain books.” There is much more than old radio shows; there is music, historic news reports as well as more current reports, spiritual and religious lectures and recorded sermons, and even a 2009 radio science show about Alzheimer’s research that I will be tuning into sometime soon. There are other similar websites. Some require that you download their propriety software: I suggest you stay away from those. The Internet Archive will give you plenty to do….

Books

Novels, biographies, and all the other books that we read for our entertainment will eventually loose their appeal to a person with dementia. There are other books, however, that will retain their appeal. The so-called coffee table books fit this bill nicely, especially those that have a nostalgic, geographic, or natural theme. These can usually be found on the sales tables of the larger bookstores and appeal to many interests.

Another option is illustrated stories. These don’t have to be children’s books. Stories written or adapted for juvenile readers can be as engrossing as adult novels, and the illustrations that they often contain make them visually stimulating as well. Swan Lake is a marvelous example of this. It is the first book of a fairytale like trilogy, written by Mark Helprin, that I discovered when I was well into adulthood. I still recommend it to friends and anyone I think has the gift of childlike-ness and curiosity, the ability to find wonderment in simple and magical ideas.

MusicMan with Alzheimer's listening to music

Music provides wonderful reminiscences and is an indispensable part of a program of reminiscence therapy. To paraphrase a line from a modern movie classic: The one constant through all the years has been music. The movie was Field of Dreams. The constant in the movie was baseball, but the quote works even better for music. It’s something everyone has a deep connection to. Everyone has a favorite song, or several. Everyone has memories that are connected to one piece of music or another, some going back to childhood. Bing Crosby-America’s Favorite Entertainer More than that, music has the ability, like nothing else, to transport us to a different time or place, to brighten our mood, to relax or stimulate us. Many experts contend that music even has the power to heal. See our collection of American Masters CD’s that feature some of the most recognizable and loved songs from the 1920’s through the 1950’s, and at a very reasonable price.

But music is not just for listening: Encourage participation. People in later stages of dementia often remember the lyrics of songs that they may not have heard for years. A person with Alzheimer’s who has trouble putting a sentence together, who stumbles over words, might sing along with a familiar old song without hesitation or mistake. Not only is this enjoyable, it stimulates the memory. She’s not a singer? Maybe he plays piano or another musical instrument: Maybe not well, but that doesn’t matter; or hand him a tambourine or a pair of maracas or drumsticks, and let him keep the beat to recorded music. Merry music making can be done in groups or individually. In residential situations, bring in a leader who has a selection of rhythm and percussion instruments, and experience in encouraging participation.


Songs From Far Away & Long Ago

Songs From Far Away & Long Ago

Sentimental Sing-Along

Videos in the Sentimental Sing-Along Collection contain classic songs ideal for nursing homes, churches, senior centers, civic organizations, families and elder Americans everywhere. Each memory-stirring volume is 30 minutes in length and comes with a set of reproducible song sheets.

 

SHOP SING-ALONGS

 

Respite Video

The Video Respite® collection was designed to capture and maintain the attention of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia through music, light movement, and the recollection of fond memories. It is as if the loved one in your care is spending some time with a good friend. Here, Joyce talks about garden fresh vegetables.

The concept of the Video Respite series is to involve and entertain the person watching so that the carer can have some time to prepare a meal, clean, or just relax. There are thirteen videos in all, so you are sure to find one that is just perfect for the loved one you are caring for. These videos also work very well in a memory care community.

This is one of the best caregiver aids that we have found! (watch overview video)

 

Video Respite for Alzheimer's disease.Video Respite DVDs provide a respite for you the caregiver, a short time to yourself.

SHOP RESPITE VIDEOS

 

 

 

Reminiscence Music

Familiar music might be the best way to trigger reminiscences. The effect that old old music has on us is the reason that oldies radio stations are as successful as they are. And it seems that no matter how long it has been since you last heard a favorite oldie you can still sing along and not miss a word. People who have dementia may not be able to learn the lyrics for a new song any longer, but they often remember old songs as well as anyone else. And reminiscing to their old favorites brings pleasure and can greatly increase quality of life.

Entertainment for Alzheimer's |Music is an ideal stimulation for reminiscenceMusic for Reminiscence

SHOP MUSIC

 

 

 

 

One of the nicest features of most puzzles is that they can be group activities. Picture, for example, a family sitting around the kitchen table, pieces of a jigsaw puzzle strewn about on the table top. These family members are working together to achieve a unified goal. Whereas games tend to foster competitiveness, puzzles can foster cooperation, everyone working for a shared goal, and this collaborative spirit can inspire conversation and socialization.

A puzzle is fun, and it has a right answer.

~ Stan Isaacs — in a conversation with Scott Kim

There are many types of puzzles, and almost all types can be considered appropriate puzzles for Alzheimer’s disease, or for any other dementia or cognitive disorder. We generally associate “jigsaw” and “crossword” with the word “puzzle”, but that term can also apply to brain-teasers; mazes; logic and mathematical puzzles; paper-and-pencil puzzles, like Sudoku, or the variety of puzzles found in our Senior Smart Puzzles and trivia books. You can find puzzles of most of these types in our store, and all are appropriate Alzheimer’s puzzles.

Put simply, a puzzle poses a problem to be solved. The problem-solving process is a cognitive exercise—puzzles have therapeutic value! We see repeatedly that the stimulation provided by these activities improves memory and brain function in people with dementia, as well as putting everyone involved in a better mood. See our Activities page to learn more about why activity is so essential for a person who has Alzheimer’s disease.

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A puzzle should be fun for the person who is involved in solving it. A puzzle should not be too easy, nor should it be too hard. Puzzles that are too easy and solved quickly are disappointing; a puzzle needs to present a worthy challenge. On the other hand, puzzles that are too hard are discouraging; this is especially true for someone who is struggling with the effects of a cognitive disorder.

Puzzles for Alzheimer’s

Fortunately, over the last several years, puzzles for Alzheimer’s have become much easier to find; due, in large part, to a young man named Max Wallack, who, when he was a boy, enjoyed working jigsaw puzzles with his great-grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease. The reason he enjoyed this time with his grandma is that he saw that the simple activity made her happier. When he was still quite young, he started a public charity organization, Puzzles to Remember which collects puzzles and gives them to Alzheimer’s programs throughout the United States and beyond.

Alzheimer’s patients, who are often agitated, seemed calmer and more focused when they worked with jigsaw puzzles.

Max also persuaded puzzle maker Springbok to create a line of jigsaw puzzles specifically for people with Alzheimer’s disease. They did this by cutting the pictures from their 1000 or 1500 piece puzzles using the dies from their line of children’s puzzles. The result is puzzles with 36 pieces (some with only 12 pieces), so they are easier, but they have pictures that are more appealing to adult sensibilities. Many of those puzzles are available in our store.


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 Puzzles for Alzheimer's | Puzzles to RememberPuzzles to Remember

 

Bright colors, beautiful themes, memorable subjects; Puzzles to Remember are designed specifically to be Puzzles for Alzheimer’s.

 

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Puzzle Books

 

 

 

Activity Books

Crosswords, spot-the-difference, trivia, missing words, mazes; all of these activities are fun and have a right answer. And all are cognitively stimulating. Here is a collection of puzzles with an appropriate level of difficulty.

 

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The Video Respite series provides you with a video tool to improve the quality of life for the person or the people in your care while providing you with a way to improve your own quality of life by providing a respite from the challenges of caring.

Alternative therapies for Alzheimer's and dementia

Take time to smell the roses

Olfactory Stimulation – Some of our strongest memories, our most potent associations, are triggered by odor. A smell that you associate with an event or moment in the past will often transport you to that moment. It can do so much more than just stir a memory. But stir memories it does, and anything that has the power to channel reminiscences should be part of the daily life of any  person with dementia.

Odors have an altogether peculiar force, in affecting us through association; a force differing essentially from that of objects addressing the touch, the taste, the sight or the hearing. ~ Edgar Allan Poe, Marginalia

Smell, and the related sense of taste, seem to be the senses most likely to be impaired by the normal aging process, and impaired to the greatest degree. This is especially unfortunate, as the sense of smell is probably more closely tied to memories and reminiscence than any of the other senses. Smell is processed in a different part of the brain than the other senses. There is good news—recent evidence seems to indicate that the sense of smell can be exercised. From a recent article by Susan Reimer (The Baltimore Sun, February 18, 2013):

But we might be able to stem the tide of this particular loss. According to the (report), there are the equivalent of puzzle books for your nose—exercises that sharpen the olfactory function the way crosswords exercise your brain.
We are supposed to put aside small jars of spices, pencil shavings and even the leaves of plants and sniff them regularly to kick start the receptors in the brain. Experts recommend 30 minutes a day: but they can’t be serious.

The article is written a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there are ways to strengthen the sense of smell (and with it taste), and there are many reasons to do this; enjoyment of food and flowers and a loaf of bread in the oven, and reminiscence are only some of the reasons to keep our sense of smell as sharp as we can.

follow-your-nose

Follow Your Nose

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Olfactory Stimulation for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Loss of the sense of smell can be the result of a zinc deficiency: if you suspect a zinc deficiency serve foods high in this mineral, like oysters, lentils, sunflower seeds, pecans, or take a supplement. The use of a humidifier to keep moisture in the air is another helpful tip to improve the sense of smell. And Susan Reimer was right, you can exercise the olfactory sense by using it. And this can become a fun cognitive exercise, as well. Create a collection of mostly recognizable scents; herbs and spices are a good place to start. One by one, smell and identify the substance. Talk about memories that a particular smell might elicit. This simple activity is sensory, cognitive and reminiscent, as well as enjoyable.

Aromatherapy

The essential oils used in aromatherapy smell pleasant (mostly), and some, like peppermint, lavender, and rosemary, are familiar, but aromatherapy is much more than sensory stimulation. Aromatherapists claim certain healing effects for the various oils used, and these effects are beginning to be validated by the scientific community.

The roots of aromatherapy go back centuries, but the methods of extracting the essential oils used are much more recent. Different healing properties are claimed for different oils. Some that show promise for treating symptoms of AD include:

  • Lavender – Traditionally, lavender is said to be calming and to balance strong emotions. It is also antidepressant and is used in cases of insomnia. Use it in the evening to promote better sleep.
  • Lemon Balm –Melissa is probably the most studied of the essential oils for its affect on people who have Alzheimer’s disease, and it is very likely one of the most effective, but it is more costly than other oils that we offer.
  • Peppermint – Used to both stimulate the mind and calm the nerves. It is said to rectify absent-mindedness. What could be better?
  • Rosemary – Stimulating and uplifting. Stimulates body and mind. Exposure to rosemary oil improves cognitive performance; this in addition to the improvement in mood.
  • Bergamot – Mood elevating, calming and balancing. Relieves stress, anxiety, and mild depression. Refreshes. Relieves insomnia.

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These are just a few of the essential oils that could be effective for people with Alzheimer’s disease. One with stimulating properties and one that is calming would be a good start. See how well your choices work, then try a couple more. Remember that a good sense of smell is not required for aromatherapy to work its magic. It is not the odor that is beneficial. Essential oils are effective even when absorbed through the skin.

Or consider our synergy blends. A synergy is a mixture of essential oils whose action has a greater total effect than the sum of the individual oils. The Oshadhi Synergies we offer are named for their applications, making it easy to select the effects you desire. For example, Evening Peace is blended to instill a peaceful mood and is recommended for use in the evening. For your health and renewal, these are the finest aromatherapy synergies available. (See our essential oils to select synergy blends.)

Read more about aromatherapy

Other Aroma Therapy

Use of the essential oils is not the only way that a person with dementia can benefit from his sense of smell. The odor of fresh bread or cookies filling the house is guaranteed to inspire memories in almost anyone, whether those memories can be vocalized or not. The smoke from a campfire, cherry blossoms in the spring, a turkey roasting on Thanksgiving day, a special perfume or cologne: these are sure to take almost everyone back to something in their past.

Scented candles and incense are easy ways to bring aromas into the living space. Incense provides a strong aroma, so is especially good if a person has a diminished sense of smell. Just be careful with candles and incense; don’t leave a person with dementia alone with an open flame or even a glowing stick of incense. Potpourri and scented soaps and lotions add to the olfactory environment. And don’t forget to bring in the smells of nature. Flowers should be part of your decor whenever possible.

Tree bark - tactile stimulation for Alzheimer's disease

Touch and be touched

Tactile Stimulation – Anything touched and anything that touches us can be stimulating. Every solid object has texture, temperature, shape. Balls in a collection can be smooth or rough, hard or soft, furry or…not. The sense of touch also includes the differentiation and recognition of temperature, pain, and body position (proprioception).

You feel with every part of your body that contains nerves. When you touch something, a hot stove, for instance, the nerve endings in your hand send a message through the nerves of your hand and arm to your spinal chord, which then sends a message to your brain. It is actually the brain that “feels”; so tactile stimulation is brain stimulation!

Tactile Stimulation for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Passive Tactile Stimulation

Almost anyone can give a massage; maybe not like a trained professional, but good enough to make a difference. And massage need not be whole body; a hand or foot massage can be exhilarating, a neck and upper back massage relaxing. More than that, massage is a powerful way to connect with someone who is losing other avenues to communicate.

If you have ever had a professional massage, the therapist probably used a massage oil. (If you have never had a professional massage, we highly recommend it. A terrific respite for a caregiver!) The oil provides lubrication to minimize friction with the skin, but it is or can be scented. The scent is from an essential oil and adds a whole other dimension to the massage: aromatherapy. For example, lavender oil and Melissa oil (lemon balm) both have beneficial effects for people with Alzheimer’s disease, as do others.

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Active Tactile Stimulation

The list of things we can use to provide tactile stimulation for people with Alzheimer’s is almost endless. Any “thing,” any object in our world can be touched, within limits. On a walk in the woods, we find the bark is different on each tree. Some, like the Shag-bark Hickory is very rough; the bark of the Sycamore, on the other hand, is much smoother. All trees have a definite and noticeable texture. (They have visual texture, as well.)

Brainpaths sensory stimulation activity for Alzheimer's and dementia

Brainpaths provides stimulation directly to the 3000 nerve receptors contained in each or our finger tips. These nerves then send impulses to stimulate the brain.

Texture is not the only property that provides tactile stimulation. Temperature is also differentiated using the sense of touch. Wet or dry is a tactile dichotomy. Sticky is a tactile discrimination.
Activity Ideas for Tactile Stimulation for Alzheimer’s Patients

Virtual Environments – Most of us cannot take our friend with Alzheimer’s walking in the forest. Even if we can sometimes, to do it as a daily or even a weekly therapy is usually not feasible. But we can bring part of the forest to our friend. A piece of bark has the same tactile characteristics whether it’s on the tree or not. A piece of moss growing in a pot cannot be walked on, but we can still appreciate its softness. In the spring and summer leaves are green and soft and supple. Later they become more brittle and will eventually crumble in our hand. Collect leaves and pine cones and twigs and acorns. Anything you find in the forest, even if the forest is really only a city park, can be used to bring the feel of nature indoors.

It is also easy to create a virtual beach or seashore. Pour an inch or two of sand in the bottom of a shallow box. On top of that put seashells and stones, dried starfish, some dried kelp or seaweed, or anything else you might find at the beach. Then allow your patient to explore with her hands. To complete the illusion, play an appropriate video or audio soundtrack in the background. So she can hear or see waves crashing, gulls being noisy….
Do you use a similar activity or have your own collection of tactile objects? We would be delighted to hear from you! Send us your thoughts and pictures, and we’ll publish them right here so others can benefit from your ideas.

Balls come in a great variety of textures and sizes. Many are squeezable. Others light up or make noise when bounced, stimulating other senses, as well. Beware of balls (or anything) that light or flashes too brightly or too quickly.  A collection of balls can provide a stimulating exploration. Or if you are inclined, make a collection of beanbags with different fabric coverings; e.g., satin, corduroy, fake fur, denim, etc.

Start a collection of objects that can provide tactile stimulation. Objects for such a collection can be found almost anywhere, but know the person for whom you’re collecting. Some people in later stages of AD put things in their mouths, as children. Watch them, or keep smaller, bite-sized objects out of your collection.

Some suggestions for tactile stimulation:

  •         Sandpaper – comes in a broad variety of “grits”
  •         Small carpet and fabric samples
  •         Pinecones, acorns, and other things found outdoors
  •         Peach pits, gourds, avocado, orange, kiwi, and other textured food items
  •         Pieces of ceramic and stone tile (make sure there are no sharp edges)

Related Research

Using direct tactile stimulation, researchers found improvement in short-term and long-term memory in subjects diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They also noticed an improvement in general mood, and in socialization and participation in daily activities. After six weeks, these improvements partially remained.

Similar results were achieved by a group in The Netherlands that used peripheral tactile nerve stimulation ( fancy scientific jargon for “massage”) as tactile stimulation.

Janet M. Witucki and Renee Samples Twibell found that simply massaging lotion into the hand of a person with Alzheimer’s disease significantly improved scores on a test of psychological well being.


Some Products for Tactile Stimulation.

Twiddle MuffsTwiddle Muffs

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Twiddle®Muffs

Twiddle®Muffs provide warmth and exercise for the hands to relieve symptoms of arthritis and keep fidgety hands busy. Caregivers rave about them. Bobby said, “My mom is not only suffering Dementia but she’s blind. The Twiddle Cat has become her friend; a friend that’s with her all the time, a friend that keeps her hands warm and so much more… ” The muffs inspire social interaction, are calming and on more than a few occasions have lead to a reduction in the need for medication.

 

Box of Balls

Box Of Balls - sensory stimulation for Alzheimer'sBox Of Balls – sensory stimulation for Alzheimer’s

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This box of six balls is loaded with sensory stimulation and fun! They are primarily tactile, but also provide visual stimulation, and exercise for the hands and arms.