Understanding How Dementia Affects the Five Senses

An older man and his daughter discuss how dementia affects the five senses as they have lunch.

Explore how dementia affects the five senses and how you can help your loved one through these changes.

When we think about dementia, the first thing that usually springs to mind is the loss of memory. Cognitive decline is a hallmark effect of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, but there are so many other facets of life which are impacted as well. As a matter of fact, each one of the five senses can be altered in a variety of ways that are important to understand.

What Sensory Changes Are Typical in Dementia?

Following are some of the ways dementia affects the five senses you may possibly notice in a family member with dementia:

Smell and Taste: These senses tend to be the first to change. The decline in the ability to taste and smell could lead the person to consume food that has spoiled, drink a cleaning fluid or other toxic substances, and not be able to tell if something is burning on the stove or in the house. Lock cleaning supplies and other dangerous materials safely away, check the person’s food supply routinely to ensure food is fresh, and make sure smoke detectors are operational throughout the home.

Vision: The brain’s ability to interpret what the individual is seeing may cause confusion. It may also result in a heightened danger of falling, as patterns on the ground, shadows, and lighting could be recognized incorrectly as three-dimensional objects. Depth perception is frequently also impacted. Whenever possible, use contrasting colors to minimize these effects.

Touch: The person may lose the ability to detect heat and cold, putting them at an increased risk for burns and other injuries. Safety-proof the stove, lower the hot water heater temperature, and ensure the person is dressed appropriately for the air temperature, in both the home and outdoors.

Hearing: Although the person may be able to hear just fine, auditory processing changes may make it hard to understand what’s being said. It also may cause anxiety when there are loud background noises and distractions in the environment. Speak slowly and clearly, using short, one-thought statements, and make use of pictures along with other visuals as needed for more effective communication.

When you start to see dementia affect the five senses of someone you love, an in-home caregiver will be the perfect addition to their care plan. Our experienced and trained professionals can reduce safety hazards while improving wellbeing. We are able to help effectively manage and defuse the numerous intricate and challenging effects of dementia, including:

  • Wandering
  • Agitation
  • Aggression
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Sundowning
  • And much more

Contact the CareWorks Health Services care team online or call us at (949) 859-4700  for a complimentary in-home consultation to learn more about our specialized dementia care in Huntington Beach, Seal Beach, Mission Viejo, and the surrounding areas and how we are able to make life the very best it can be every day for someone you love.