As part of his activities coordinator role he devises ideas to stimulate the residents who live at the nursing home. Many of whom have limited sight, poor hearing and often live with dementia. One of the key features of his job is to promote discussion and stimulate old memories in order to try and keep minds as active as possible.
The home where my husband is the activities coordinator subscribes to the Daily Sparkle, a great tool for carers working with the elderly or dementia patients. The Daily Sparkle features evocative images, quizzes and reminiscence articles - all designed to stimulate memories and conversation.
Taking this idea forward, he decided to create a sensory activity using plants from our garden and allotment. Fragrance and memory can be closely linked, certain smells often act as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience.
At the start of the week I helped him put together a selection of plants...these included:
- A highly fragrant rose
- Sprig of Jasmine
- Bunch of Lavender
- Handful of mint from our allotment
- Fresh Sage
- Fresh Oregano
- A few branches of Rosemary
It is true that your sense of smell can decline as you get older, but we chose plants with the strong scents. My husband also encouraged the residents to crush the plants, particularly the herbs, to release the smell. The sensory activity using fragrant plants proved to be popular. Those with the ability to see closed their eyes and tried to guess the name of the plant they were holding. Many of the residents have limited sight, so this activity was good for them because other senses like scent become more important.
Also, with limited mobility, some residents cannot access the garden at the home - so the opportunity to smell fresh plants was a pleasant experience for many. As an avid gardener myself, I take the scent of freshly dug soil, cut grass and floral scents for granted. If I were to lose my mobility or sight, then having fresh plants bought closer to me would be an important part of improving my quality of life.
I thought the large rose would prove to be the most popular scent. I was surprised when my husband told me it had been the fresh Sage that had prompted the most discussion. Many of the residents recalled cooking with the herb, particularly to make Sage and Onion stuffing for Sunday roasts and Christmas dinner. Before the days of packaged food, most people would have used fresh herbs in their cooking.
It's actually really lovely the Sage evoked memories of family meals. I think it's easy to forget elderly people living in nursing homes once had busy lives, running a home, possibly cooking with small children at their feet, multitasking - something many of us are familiar with. I'm glad the Sage from our garden bought back happy memories of families gathered around the dining table.
My husband and I recently signed up to the Dementia Friend initiative. The Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is their biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. Please visit the Dementia Friends website and take a few minutes to watch the video or attend an information session in your local area. And then hopefully you will pledge to become a Dementia Friend and help to support people in your community.
This week I'm linking up with these lovely blogs: