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Social and Sensory Stimulation During Times of Social Distancing

by Judy Cornish

I hope this finds you all healthy and coping with our current situation. So many of us have had to change our expectations of how things will go and that can be frustrating.

One of the biggest challenges you may face right now is how to provide enough social and sensory stimulation for your loved one with dementia. Our loved ones need activity during the day so that when it is time to wind down for the night they are tired and ready for rest.

Getting the right kind of social stimulation is as important to our sense of security and well-being as is getting enough sensory stimulation. When people get appropriate social and sensory stimulation during the day, they are relaxed and tired by dinnertime, ready to wind down and rest. We have had remarkably little trouble with our clients wandering or sundowning, and I think it is because we are so careful to ensure that they get the right kind of social and sensory stimulation each day. 

From the DAWN blog, We all Need Social Interaction, Whether We Have Dementia or Not.

If this were a year ago I would recommend that you take your loved one to a hardware store or a nursery to look at tools and flowers or to a crowded restaurant for lunch, but that is currently not a safe option. Depending on where you live, you may still be able to go for walks outside or drives, but there are definitely less options for stimulating social activities. 

Live interactive online programming for seniors

As I was thinking about this, I was reminded of Wesley and Julie Cheng. A few years ago I had the privilege of spending some time with Wesley and Julie in San Francisco, CA. These two lovely people run a non-profit organization called TeleVisit ( TeleVisit is a monthly subscription service that provides live programming and interactive activities for seniors in their homes utilizing a very simple system. To see a short video describing their service, go to: “TeleVisit: How it Works”. (Note: DAWN is in no way affiliated with TeleVisit, we just really respect Wesley and Julie and admire their program.)

Using something like TeleVisit is a way to help fill the void that we cannot currently fill by socializing at parks, restaurants, and community gatherings. Subscribers receive a phone call from a TeleVisit facilitator when an activity is about to begin. They can then choose to participate in the upcoming exercise program, bingo or trivia game, or other program all by just clicking a button on the device.  In addition, for subscribers experiencing dementia, TeleVisit will also send optional weekly reports to a family member of a subscriber letting them know whether or not their loved one is engaging with the service.