Sensory interventions to support the wellbeing of people with dementia: a critical review

HAIGH Judith, MYTTON Carol
Journal article citation:
British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 79(2), 2016, pp.120-126.

Introduction: Promoting the wellbeing of people with dementia is central to current social policies. To address the psychological impact of dementia, sensory stimulation is one approach practised by occupational therapists. This article will critically review the primary research that tests the link between sensory interventions and wellbeing for people with dementia. This research is inspired by theory relating to person-centred care and sensory processing. Method: A literature search was conducted using electronic databases for health and social care. Nine papers were identified that met the inclusion criteria. These were critically appraised to identify the quality of the evidence available, and to collate emerging themes from their results. Results: Although the studies appraised varied widely in the quality of their methodologies, some significant results and themes were found that do link sensory stimulation with emotional wellbeing and occupational engagement. Two distinctly different methods of intervention were documented in the evidence base. Most studies tested the impact of session based interventions in specific environments. One large scale randomised controlled trial implemented sensory care plans that were embedded in the lived environment of participants. This approach is more congruent with sensory processing theory and occupational science theories than time-bound sessions of sensory stimulation. Conclusion: Attending to the sensory needs of people with dementia can positively affect their emotional wellbeing and their ability to engage in occupations. This can be incorporated into the reasoning and interventions of occupational therapists when supporting this client group. (Publisher abstract)

Subject terms:
intervention, wellbeing, dementia, occupational therapy, literature reviews, needs;
Content type:
research review
Journal home page
ISSN online:
ISSN print:

Key to icons

  • Free resource Free resource
  • Journal article Journal article
  • Book Book
  • Digital media Digital media
  • Journal Journal

Give us your feedback

Social Care Online continues to be developed in response to user feedback.

Contact us with your comments and for any problems using the website.

Sign up/login for more

Register/login to access resource links, advanced search and email alerts