A person with dementia, no matter how severe, is filled with magical, wonderful abilities.
Allow me to get a little heady here… the human condition is nothing short of miraculous and, to go a step further, so is the human’s ability to interact with the universe.
And there is more than one way to do that. We are all raised in societies that teach us those conventions specific to our environments. Dementia may rob people of those conventional abilities, but beneath those traditions, and languages, and cultures is a fundamentally human way to be present.
And that is through our senses and our natural inclination to seek or avoid sensation. It is hard to watch someone with dementia struggle to organize sensory information, name it, and produce the “proper” response. And when something cannot be named or identified, that sensory input can be perceived as threatening or confusing or chaotic.
But sensory processing is also a way for the brain to practice alternative ways of using information, and to find new pathways to filter the input, and to ultimately experience life at a very rudimentary, pleasurable level.
How do we sharpen the senses? Do we attack the sensory organs with a blast of input- loud noises, bright light, and noxious smells? No, but we can help folks process sensory input through a guided process and a face to face exchange of expressions not unlike the process of how babies learn. If you show that it’s ok, the brain will process that information.