Sensory Engagement with PEP

by Nicole Bruce

More than 80 persons living with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias at Lieberman Center are participants in an innovative program that uses the senses to promote positive engagement. Known as the Purposeful Engagement Program (PEP) , it is designed to provide a sensory-based approach to care and is extremely effective in engaging those with late-stage dementia who might not be able to communicate verbally or participate in more traditional activities.

In one component of the PEP program, members of Lieberman Center’s Creative Arts Therapy team designed thematic sensory stations in sitting areas to engage residents through tactile items, photographs and different aromas. One station includes life-like baby dolls, a cradle with a colorful mobile, a dresser with vintage baby clothes, blankets and children’s books in English and Russian. This setting is enhanced for the  senses of smell and hearing with scented lotion, baby powder, air freshener and speakers that play lullabies (some in Hebrew, Yiddish and Russian). In weekly nurturance groups led by a Social Worker, residents care for the babies by reading them stories, feeding them, singing to them and rocking them to sleep, all as a way to foster engagement. The Creative Arts Therapy team is designing additional sensory stations, including kitchen- and nature-themed ones.

This project was funded through the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. CJE also used the grant funds to educate staff and family members on sensory-based approaches to care.

CJE SeniorLife was recently featured in a Member Spotlight on the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America online news describing this program.

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This article originally appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of LIFE, CJE SeniorLife's quarterly magazine.