Visual Stimulation for Alzheimer’s and Dementia


Visual Stimulation – Aside from the brain, the eye is the most complex and incredible organ in the animal world. Vision is our most important sense, the one through which we gain most of our information, and the one that offers the broadest range of possibilities for stimulation.

As long as there is light, everything is visible, and potentially stimulating. Simply, vision is what happens when light enters the eye and is turned into electrical impulses by the eye’s retina. These impulses travel along the optic nerve to the occipital cortex of the brain. The brain then “sees” the image that the eye sends. Visual stimulation is brain stimulation, and brain stimulation is what we are after.

Visual Stimulation  for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Visual stimulation for people who have Alzheimer’s can involve light, color, shape, or motion, or a combination of those elements. Gently animated lights, kaleidoscopes, colorful paintings, nature movies, fiber optic Christmas trees, a glorious sunset: all examples of visual stimulation. Some can have the added benefit of stimulating memory: a sunset might dredge up a memory of a similar sunset in the person’s past. He  may remember a classic painting from a visit to a museum or from an Art Appreciation class in college.

Light for visual stimulation

A most basic form of visual stimulation for Alzheimer’s and dementia is bright light therapy. This is totally passive, but can be effective for sleep and mood enhancement, especially in winter. Not everyone has access to a light source as bright as is needed for this, so provide much opportunity as possible to be in direct sunlight.


Sun Touch Plus



Other sources of light, especially if they move or change color, provide a different type of visual stimulation. Avoid overly bright lights, except for lights that have been designed specifically for bright-light therapy, Also avoid lights that appear to move quickly or flash as these can cause confusion and over-stimulation. If you can find one, or still have one, the Lava Lamp® is a good source of soothing light stimulation.

Don’t forget natural light. Bright objects that hang in the window, or even outside, and reflect the rays of the sun; stained glass trinkets that color the sunlight and allow it to shine through; mirrors that reflect incoming light and brighten the room; these all add stimulating possibilities to the environment.

Movies and video for the Alzheimer’s patient

Movies and video features of all kinds provide auditory stimulation as well as visual stimulation. But the purpose of movies is to entertain. Entertainment is a diversion that we all need and enjoy, including those of us with Alzheimer’s disease.

People with dementia quickly lose the ability to follow a plot line. Older movies are a good choice; they often have simpler plots than more current fair. If she enjoyed a given movie at some time in the past, she will probably remember it to some degree. Let her help you to choose the evening’s entertainment.

A good alternative to feature movies is nature documentaries. Many are visually stunning and contain minimum narration. The natural themes are enjoyed by almost everyone and are certainly visually stimulating. They are generally beautifully scored, sometimes with familiar music, sometimes with music written specifically for the movie. Another feature is that these videos do not have to be viewed in a single sitting, they don’t require undivided attention, and they can serve as a stimulus for conversation and socialization. See our entire line of DVD entertainment.


Multi-sensory activities

Playable Art Ball - stimulating toy for Alzheimer's

This Playable Art Ball is a stimulating toy that is age-appropriate for people with Alzheimer’s



This website is full of items that provide stimulation to more than a single sense organ. One or our favorites is the Playable Art Ball, a beautifully crafted, colorful activity for the hands and eyes. Another is our collection of balls that can stimulate one’s sense of humor, as well as several different sense receptors. I will almost guarantee that you have a diverse collection of appropriately stimulating objects around the house. If there are young children around, enlist their help to find such objects. Children are the experts. If not, think like a child, and be amazed at what you find.

Decorating for the Alzheimer’s patient

We all do our best to create a visually stimulating environment for ourselves. We call it decorating, but we often neglect to decorate for person who has Alzheimer’s/dementia. Use the ideas presented on this website to produce a stimulating, entertaining, and active living environment for him or her. This is the essence of quality-of-life!

Further Research

Brain activity was measured directly to investigate the effects of audiovisual stimulation in people with Alzheimer’s disease. The team that conducted this study reported a significant increase in brain activity, but the increase was less in more advanced stages of the disease. The stimulation that these investigators used was a movie. Good news for the caregiver; we can all administer a movie!

Related Posts
Music and the Brain
It is an exciting time for the science of neurology and brain study. I read recently that we have learned more about the brain in the last five years than ...
Brainpaths for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
This is an exciting time for the science of neurology and brain study.We have learned more about the brain in the last five years than in the five thousand years previous. ...
Francesca Rosenberg leads people with Alzheimer’s and their caretakers in a discussion at the Museum of Modern Art.

~ Jason Brownrigg - Photograph courtesy of
Every now and then the news media reports on a new drug that is being tested as a way to treat Alzheimer's disease; that initial tests have had "promising results"; ...
Sensory Stimulation for Alzheimer’s
Providing appropriate sensory stimulation for Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia has been shown in recent studies to decrease agitation and restlessness, as well as improve sleep. These symptoms ...
Doll Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease: Pros and Cons
We probably get more feedback from customers concerning doll therapy for Alzheimer's disease (and doll therapy for dementia) than any other category of care. Some of that feedback is quoted ...
Creating Art is strong alternative therapy for people who have a Alzheimer's disease.
Why art therapy for Alzheimer's? "A wealth of research has demonstrated that participation in creative activities promotes health and well being by stimulating curiosity and self-evaluation, by encouraging individuals to ...
Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s
Music is therapy for everyone, not just people who have Alzheimer's disease. I think that each of us has experienced, if not euphoria, at least a certain reverie while listening ...
Aromatherapy For Alzheimer’s
Can Aromatherapy help Alzheimer's disease? There has recently been an upsurge in attention over the use of aromatherapy for Alzheimer's disease. Several essential oils are proving effective for treating symptoms of ...
Reminiscing Over Old Photographs
It is a funny thing about Alzheimer's that memories are lost in reverse order; memories formed recently are more fleeting than those from many years ago. Alzheimer's disease starts in ...
Alzheimer’s Store
Thank you for your website. It made it easy to find something for me to send to my mother, for my dad. It made her feel included and important to ...
Music and the Brain
Brainpaths for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Alternative Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease
Sensory Stimulation for Alzheimer’s
Doll Therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease: Pros and Cons
Art Therapy for Alzheimer’s
Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s
Aromatherapy For Alzheimer’s
Reminiscence and Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Store

About Author

Degrees in psychology and education as well as professional certifications in business administration and website development gave John the ideal credentials to co-found and develop an internet presence dedicated to helping caregivers provide exceptional care to those who are no longer able to care for themselves because of the impact of dementia. Since 2007, Best Alzheimer's Products has earned national and international recognition as a place to go for help and advice, with the goal of making life better for people living with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.


    • Hi Jan,

      Thank you for your kind words. It is always gratifying to hear that our work is being well received. You have been added to our list.

      Best Regards,
      Best Alzheimer’s Products, Inc.

    • I have added your email address to our mailing list. I listed you as jjahn as I didn’t have a proper name. That can be changed.

  1. I am the Director of Dining Services for a 70 room facility. I’m Looking for ideas on foods that play an important role in helping my residents

Leave A Reply