B is for . . .

“You are not going to do all 26 letters of the alphabet are you?”  my husband asks as I write this post.  I was annoyed, here is Mr. Metric nay saying a rational outline to explore sensory preferences.  I considered dropping him from my email list . . . but of course, I am going to continue to use the alphabet as my foundation for exploring the value of knowing one another’s sensory preferences.

 “Why,” you and he might ask?  In the words of Sherlock Holmes, “It’s elementary, my dear Watson”.  When things are going poorly, whether it be in a relationship, with our health, or our environment—our sensory preferences matter.  A toxic day with my boss can be ameliorated with my favorite potpourri or music.  A bouquet of my favorite flowers goes far in making up for a spousal argument.  My agitation is softened if I can moderate the temperature of my surroundings. 

Our sensory preferences are basic, foundational and elementary.  They are formed from our earliest days and develop over a lifetime.  So join me for a calculated review of sensory stimuli.

B is for beach, baking bread and the B-52’s. 

One of my favorite all-senses place is the beach.  Now as I travel the Caribbean I can capitalize the term . . . The Beach.  It can be any sandy shore.  It does not have to have a particular color of water—blue is ideal but because my history is in North East US, greenish brown is also visually satisfactory.   Throughout childhood I spent one summer a week at a MD/DE beach basking, reading, people watching. The subtle blue tones of the Bahamian beaches are stunning but should my memory regress with dementia symptoms—a picture of a North East beach will be most recognizable.  Sand and shells will be both visually and tactually pleasing providing me with memories of quiet sea breeze day of reading and people watching.  Sifting sand with my hands or my feet would be calming.  An audio of gentle surf would be soothing for me as well.  

Baking bread was a young mother’s weekly event often accompanied by young children.  It was a gratifying hands-on experience with the tactility of kneading.  It was often a satisfying venue for frustration.  The smell of baked bread engenders thoughts of happy home.  As the bread went into the oven, the butter and jelly came out of the refrigerator.  Fresh baked bread was an olfactory and a  taste sensation.

Bake day at the Bixby’s was our name for baking day.  The name reminded us of our one multi-state vacation that included Sturbridge Village, MA, an historic re-enactment of village life in the pre-industrial era.  A whimsical name for a labor-intensive day.

Imagine you are caring for someone and you want to give them a moment of pleasure but you know little about their history or sensory preferences.  A person who had positive beach memories would experience a sand bin with shells as a positive sensory experience.  A person with no beach memories would probably avoid the whole experience. 

Baking bread is an olfactory pleasure almost universal in reach.  Musical memories can be guessed at, based on an individual’s age and the music’s overall appeal.  Benny Goodman and Big Band are satisfying to most adults who were young adults in the 40’s. Those in the 1960’s would resonate more with the Beatles and the late 70’s– the B 52’s. 

Take a moment and think of a pleasant smell, taste, sound . . .

Author: Cate
Passionate about dementia care and quality of life throughout the last days of life----sums up Cate McCarty, Dr. Cate, Dementia Coach. With close to forty years of long-term care experience in nursing and recreation, a Master's in Thanatology and a PhD in Aging Studies, Dr. Cate seizes every opportunity to translate research into quality of life for individuals with dementia and all of us who have the honor to "rub elbows" with them.

2 thoughts on “B is for . . .

  1. I love the B! I have been in a group with 5 women with dementia and as soon as their hands started manipulating the dough it was evident that they went back in time, relaxed and enjoyed the experience.

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