Multi-sensory therapy and dementia

Written by Active Minds on Thursday the 3rd of December 2015.


With Alzheimer’s Society predicting that one million people will be living with dementia by 2025, one team of dementia specialists and arts practitioners have come together to explore how multi-sensory therapy can help to improve quality of life for dementia patients.

Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity and NHS foundation trust, Alzheimer’s Lambeth and Southwark, and South London and Maudsley NHS trust have teamed up with arts charity Age Exchange to create a three-year pilot scheme named ‘Reminiscence Arts and Dementia’. Overseen by researchers from Royal Holloway University of London, the scheme has so far engaged thousands of older people, most of whom are living in care homes, in a range of reminiscence activities including music, movement, drama, and crafts as well as using objects, films, sounds, and smells to trigger memories. The team even liaise with family members and carers to ensure that activities are specially tailored to each individual’s life story.  

Although official findings are yet to be published, the results of the scheme are looking encouraging. Researchers have noted that participants in sessions have displayed a 42% increase in mood and levels of engagement while arts practitioners involved recount stories of participants opening up and connecting with people, many for the first time in many years. The artists involved believe that this new level of engagement comes from the fact that creative activity gives people the freedom to express how they feel without having to rely on finding the right words, a task that can be difficult for some people living with dementia.

While the level of multi-sensory therapy displayed in the scheme is likely a long way off being rolled out in care homes across the UK, there’s nothing to say inspiration can’t be drawn from the scheme and used at home. Reminiscence activities, favourite songs, and meaningful objects or sounds – such as typewriters or the sound of the sea – can all be beneficial in triggering memories and communication, helping restore value and meanings to the lives of those with dementia.