While our Anthem Memory Care community life engagement directors love to organize fun events and activities for our residents, they also recognize the value of providing plenty of opportunity to relax and experience periods of peace and quiet.
A researcher from the University of Wisconsin, Laura Joosse, has studied the relationship between sound and behavior in individuals living with dementia. She studied decibel levels and how they can be lowered to a level that reduces anxiety.
The impact loud sounds and ambient noise is especially hard on individuals with dementia because they often can’t comprehend exactly what is bothering them. That feeling of lack of control over their environment can lead to increased anxiety.
Mealtime can be especially challenging in that the clanking of silverware, mixed with the ebb and tide of rising voices and background music can create a cacophony of sounds that can quickly raise stress levels for those whose cognition is already impaired.
What can be done to reduce these noisy distractions? Here are a few tips for those of you who are caring for a loved one with dementia:
- Limit visits to crowded venues, like shopping malls, where there are multiple noise distractions.
- Sit closer to your loved one when conversing to enable them to see you. Try to achieve eye contact before speaking. This helps them focus and screen out background noise.
- Do not try to compete with background noise. Speak slowly and evenly. A lower voice stands out better from background noises and has a more calming effect as well. Shouting will only increase the noise level and add another layer of stress.
- Become more observant of the ambient noise around you and do what you can to eliminate or reduce it. Make sure that radios and TVs are turned off or lowered when visitors are present. If there is construction occurring nearby, close the windows on that side of the house.
- Be reassuring when sudden noises do occur. Whether it’s the sound of a car alarm in the distance or a lawnmower starting up, make it a point to acknowledge the sound (“Someone must be mowing their lawn”) instead of trying to ignore it. This reassures your loved one that the sound they heard poses no threat.
While following these tips, it is also important not to overcompensate by attempting to sequester your loved one away from all the normal sounds of life around them. Many sounds, such as that of a water fountain, birds, and even the sound of children at play can be soothing to individuals with dementia.
At Anthem Memory Care communities, we have found regular meditation and yoga sessions conducted outdoors to be a great way to relax and enjoy the sounds of nature, and to cope more effectively with the sounds of the world around us.
(The top image is of an outdoor meditation session at Chelsea Place Memory Care in Aurora, Colorado.)