Understanding Dementia’s Effects on the Five Senses

When we think about dementia, the first thing that typically comes to mind is the loss of memory. Cognitive decline is a hallmark effect of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but there are so many other areas of life which are impacted as well. For instance, it’s important to understand dementia’s effects on the five senses.

What Sensory Changes Are Typical in Dementia?

Following are some of the changes you might notice in a loved one with dementia:

Taste and Smell: These senses are often the first to change. The decline in the ability to taste and smell could lead the individual to consume food that has spoiled, drink a cleaning fluid or other toxic substance, and remain unaware if something is burning on the stove or in the home. Lock cleaning supplies and other hazardous materials safely away, check the person’s food supply routinely to make sure food is fresh, and make sure smoke detectors are operational throughout the home.

Vision: The brain’s ability to interpret what the individual is seeing can cause confusion. It can also lead to an increased danger of falling, as patterns on the floor, shadows, and lighting can be recognized incorrectly as three-dimensional objects. Depth perception is often also impacted. Whenever possible, use contrasting colors to reduce these effects.

Hearing: While the person may be able to hear just fine, auditory processing changes can make it hard to understand what’s being said. It also can cause anxiety when there are loud background noises and distractions in the environment. Speak clearly and slowly, using short, one-thought statements, and use pictures as well as other visuals when needed for more effective communication.

Touch: The individual may lose the ability to detect hot and cold, putting them at risk for burns and other injuries. Safety-proof the stove, reduce the hot water heater temperature, and ensure the individual is dressed appropriately for the air temperature, both in the house and outdoors.

If you have a loved one who is experiencing dementia’s effects on the five senses, an in-home caregiver is the perfect addition to their care plan. Our trained and experienced professionals can reduce safety hazards while improving well-being. We are able to help effectively manage and defuse the many challenging and intricate effects of dementia, including:

  • Wandering
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Sundowning
  • And so much more

Contact us online or at 250.590.8098 for a free in-home consultation for more information on our specialized dementia care in Oak Bay, Victoria, Saanich, and the surrounding areas and how we can make life the very best it can be every day for someone you love.