Program uses sensory stimulation to trigger memories in Dementia patients

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) -- A program at Touchmark Retirement Community works to help people struggling with memory issues. It brings back what they’ve forgotten, with sensory stimulation.

“I think just about everybody has smelled something and it might have triggered, a perfume or something, reminds you of something,” says Barb Pandolfo, executive director at Touchmark.

The program is called Fragrance and Frames. It stimulates a patient’s sense of smell and touch with essential oils and hands-on crafts.

“What it's doing is bringing the two together, and we're seeing some pretty amazing results,” Pandolfo says.

The pilot program for Fragrances and Frames won an innovation award for helping people with dementia boost brain function.

“We’re having fun, we’re creating a memory,” says Pam Murphy, Memory Care Life Enrichment Coordinator at Touchmark. “It's really not about the artwork itself. But it's all kinds of things come forward when we start doing our Fragrance and Frames.”

Organizers measure success by how patient’s sign their names before and after taking part in the program.

“There’s some pretty incredible differences between the starting signature and the ending signature,” Pandolfo says.

But besides just the written proof, organizers say Fragrance and Frames brings back a sense of normalcy for residents.

“Even our more shy people begin to really open up and bubble over, and start expressing,” Murphy says. “The Dementia disappears. All of that disappears. And it's just a group of regular adults having a good time.”

Organizers aim to hold Fragrance and Frames sessions twice a month at Touchmark in Appleton.

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