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Unexpected Effects of Dementia: The Five Senses


Most people only consider the cognitive effects of dementia in older adults. And while cognitive decline may be the foremost symptom, there are unexpected effects of dementia that may take you by surprise. As a matter of fact, each of the five senses may be altered in a variety of ways that are important to understand.

What Are the Unexpected Effects of Dementia on the Five Senses?

Following are some of the changes you could notice in a family member with dementia:

Taste and Smell: Older adults with dementia will often notice changes in their sense of taste and smell first. 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 substance, and remain unaware if something is burning on the stove or in the home. Keep cleaning supplies and other dangerous materials out of reach, keep an eye on the person’s food supply routinely to ensure food is fresh, and make sure smoke detectors are operational throughout the home.

Touch: A deteriorating sense of touch can leave the older adult vulnerable to burns and other injuries. Safety-proof the stove, lower the hot water heater temperature, and ensure the individual is dressed appropriately for the air temperature, both in the home and outdoors.

Hearing: It’s not uncommon for older adults with dementia to maintain their hearing, but changes in audio processing 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 clearly and slowly, using short, one-thought statements, and make use of pictures and other visuals as needed for more effective communication.

Vision: The brain’s ability to interpret what the person is seeing may cause confusion. It may also result in a heightened chance of falling, as patterns on to the ground, lighting, and shadows could be mistaken for three-dimensional objects. Many older adults also experience a decline in their depth perception. Whenever possible, use contrasting colors to minimize these effects.

An in-home caregiver is the perfect addition to the care plan of someone with dementia. Our trained and experienced professionals can decrease safety hazards while improving wellbeing. We are able to help effectively manage and defuse the many unexpected effects of dementia, including:

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

Contact us online or call 805-737-4357 for a free in-home consultation for more information on our specialized dementia care in Lompoc, Santa Maria, Nipomo, and the surrounding areas and how we are able to make life the very best it can be every day for someone you love.

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