Finding a Happy Place for People with Dementia
Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that can cause memory loss, confusion, and difficulty with thinking and problem-solving. It can be challenging, often resulting in disruptive behavior, significantly contributing to caregiver stress.
If you are caring for someone with dementia, it is essential to help your loved one find a happy place. A happy place can be a physical location, such as a cozy corner to curl up and snuggle with a hot chocolate or a natural place where you can hear birds or watch squirrels. It can be a park, a porch, or a snack bar, or it can be an activity or event that brings them joy. It can also take the form of a "time-out room." By helping them find a happy place, you can improve their quality of life, solve behavioral issues, and make your journey with dementia a little bit easier.
Helping your loved one find their happy place can be a therapeutic intervention that helps mitigate disruptive behavior. The Snoezelen concept was developed in the 1970s by two Dutch therapists, Jan Hulsegge and Ad Verheul. They were working with children with severe disabilities, and they found that creating a calming and stimulating environment could help to improve their quality of life.
The Snoezelen concept has also benefited people with dementia. Today these multi-sensory design concepts are often used in memory care facilities to provide a secure and calming space for a "time-out" from disruptive behavior. They can also help to improve mood, sleep, and communication. They can also help to improve mood, sleep, and communication.
Creating a happy place for your loved one can include a variety of sensory experiences, such as soft lighting, calming music, and gentle touch. Soft lighting, comfortable seating, and various sensory objects fill these rooms. Some everyday sensory things found in Snoezelen rooms often include water features that can be a small fountain, as the sound of water can be very calming for people with dementia. These spaces usually have colored lights, which can be a positive distraction and a very stimulating experience for people with dementia. Pleasant aromas, such as lavender or chamomile, can help to promote relaxation. These spaces often have a variety of textures to touch, such as soft blankets, fur, and feathers. This happy place can be a very stimulating experience for people with dementia.
Here are some tips for helping your loved one find their happy place:
Create a sensory environment. People with dementia often have difficulty processing information, so creating a sensory environment can help them feel more comfortable and relaxed. A happy place can include soft lighting, calming music, and pleasant smells.
Engage them in activities they enjoy. If your loved one enjoys gardening, for example, their happy place could be a park or garden to plant flowers in their backyard. If they loved to read, you could read to them or create a reading corner.
Be patient and understanding. It may take some time for your loved one to find their happy place. Be patient and understanding, and don't give up.
Relax. You don't need to devote an entire room to provide these calming spaces; you can create a "time out" box filled with these elements to pull out what is needed quickly.
If caring for someone with dementia, you may consider creating a happy place, Snoezelen room or time-out box. It can be a great way to help your loved one relax and de-stress. For more information on therapies and the senses for dementia, refer to Chapter 10, Sensory Engagement, in my book Taming the Chaos of Dementia.