Current Activities in Longterm Care
Kate Lynch, Editor
Current Activities
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Aromatherapy Beadstring
Source:  January/February 2007 Current Activities in Longterm Care

One-to-one for persons with
mild or moderate Alzheimer’s

“Multi-sensory therapies have the potential to be a valuable tool in managing the mood and
behavior of elderly people with dementia, with the added benefit of reducing anxiety and stress
in carers and staff,” writes Dr. Sarah Baillon, research associate at the University of Leicester’s
division of psychiatry for the elderly in the United Kingdom, in the journal Advances in
Psychiatric Treatment.

The following intervention is designed to evoke pleasant memories of the person’s past, by
means of a rewarding multisensorial experience involving touch, sight and smell.

It is indicated when the therapeutic goal is to increase arousal and alertness, improving the
person’s capacity to enjoy quality sensory experiences.

Materials needed

  • Fragrant wood beads of different color, size, and shape (e.g., ovals, cubes, flowers,
    tubes, hearts, letter beads). If you can’t find fragrant wood beads, buy normal ones plus
    an essential oil of the elder’s choice. Apply a drop of oil to each bead and gently rub it
    with your finger.
  • A piece of cording approximately 20 inches long.

Steps to follow

  • Before the activity, prepare the beadstring: pass the cording through the beads and
    knot the ends.

  • Note: Use a washable cording that is thinner than the beads’ holes, and when preparing
    the beadstring, leave some space between beads so that they can move and slide along
    the cording, allowing for a more stimulating and engaging tactile experience.

  • Give the person the beadstring to look at, manipulate and smell. It’s important that you
    share the sensorial experience with them. Touch, hold, and smell the beads yourself.

Sensory Room Activity

Invite the person to focus on the memories the fragrance evokes. If nothing comes to mind,
ask them to think of:  images of themselves, as a child, teenager, and so on.objects such as
flowers or food.places.colors.persons.

More ideas: Have participants create their own personalized aromatic beadstring, in a
separate session, before the activity.

Adaptation for persons with severe Alzheimer’s:

Place the string on the elder’s lap. Next, place your hands over their hands (ask permission
first) and gently guide them over the beadstring so that they can interact with it for as long as
they wish. Help them bring the beadstring close to their face to enjoy the fragrance.
Provide verbal prompts and encouragement, and use cutout pictures that relate to the
fragrance (e.g., a lavender sprig, a peppermint ice cream, a slice of bread, a cup of coffee) to
facilitate reminiscence. You may also want to use the real items.

Tips: One important therapeutic use of the aromatic beadstring is for redirecting the attention
of Alzheimer’s patients with rummaging and picking behavior. Those who tend to wander will
also be able to enjoy the experience during their walking activity. (Make sure you follow the
facility’s policy for using equipment and materials outside of the sensory room.)

Baillon S., van Diepen E., Prettyman R. “Multisensory therapy in psychiatric care,” Advances in
Psychiatric Treatment, November 2002, 8:444-450.
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