Reminiscence in Dementia: Sensory Boxes

For those who have a loved one with dementia, the disease can be devastating. Standing by and watching a loved one lose their memory and independence can create feelings of powerlessness and helplessness. However, it is important to remember that although there is no cure for dementia, there are many things you can do to increase your loved one’s quality of life. Last week, we discussed reminiscing and recording past experiences in a memory book to be reviewed with the person with dementia on a regular basis. In later stages of dementia, creating a memory book with the individual may not be feasible. However, there are other forms of reminiscence that can still have an effect, for example, sensory exploration.

All of us can relate to how strongly our senses relate to memory. A few notes from a forgotten song or a whiff of perfume can instantly transport us back to an earlier time and place. While an individual with dementia may not be able to actively recall specific memories from their past, often sensory memories remain. One approach used by many speech-language pathologists and cognitive therapists is the creation of sensory boxes for reminiscence. Sensory boxes are created by deciding on a theme, and then filling a box with items related to that theme. The most successful sensory boxes touch on as many of the senses as possible. For example, one may create a sensory box with a beach theme and add a CD of ambient beach sounds like seagulls and crashing waves, pieces of salt water taffy for the person to taste and smell, and a small bag of sand and seashells for the individual to run their fingers through. Vivid pictures and scenes can also be helpful.

A sensory box can be created around any theme, and should be tailored to ideas most likely to strike a chord with the individual. Some common themes for sensory boxes are:

  • Babies
  • Christmas or other meaningful holiday
  • School Memories
  • Weddings
  • Seasons

Check in with us again next week as we continue our series on dementia and ways to reminisce with your loved one.

Have you used reminiscence to connect with a loved one with dementia? Share your store in the comments section.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty with speech, language, or swallowing, contact Speech Associates of New York today to find a professional speech-language pathologist who can help you or your loved one communicate to the fullest. Remember, early intervention is the key to maintaining and developing strong communication skills. Call us today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at

This entry was posted in Aging, Alzheimer's, Dementia and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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