Dementia is often metaphorically described as being the “silent tsunami” disease. The term Dementia describes progressive disorders affecting the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease, vascular Dementia and Dementia with Lewy bodies. The person affected can often feel like they are unable to take part in everyday activity and leisure.
A person affected by Dementia can become increasingly isolated, frustrated, bored and unhappy if they lose understanding of the world around them. Signs of this isolation can be reflected in people walking around and “searching”, or becoming agitated and emotionally distressed. If people with Dementia have a shortage of activities to take part in, this can affect their ability to maintain everyday skills such as self-care, meaning people with Dementia often neglect their basic healthcare needs. The ability to connect with the world around you is such a basic human need, however people with Dementia often feel distanced and confused about the things happening around them.
Using everyday objects and textures, you can allow people with Dementia in your care home to experience sensory therapy to trigger emotions and memories in seniors who have lost their ability to connect with the world around them. This is an activity that is involved in Sensory Stimulation Therapy.
What is Sensory Stimulation Therapy?
Originating in the Netherlands in the 1970s, Sensory Stimulation Therapy was originally designed to help people with learning disabilities. It was a way for those people to explore a safe, stimulating environment that provided age-appropriate and enjoyable activities. The therapy would involve exposing people to a variety of different textures, sounds, light and taste to allow them to feel more connected and in control of the world around them. Since then, the therapy has become widely used to treat other conditions, including Alzheimer’s, Autism, brain injuries, chronic pain and other forms of Dementia.
People with Dementia may not be able to participate in hobbies they enjoyed in the past due to health or safety reasons. Additionally, they may not simply have the cognitive ability to carry out the task. Therefore, it may be the sensory side of that activity that needs to be supported.
What are the benefits of creating a Sensory Room?
A Sensory Room offers the opportunity for an activity that is free from cognitive demands and allows patients to feel relaxed and entertained. While in a Sensory Room, residents receive a stream of stimuli that automatically increases their awareness of their surroundings. Certain textures and experiences may bring people they used to enjoy in the past. For example, if a person used to enjoy baking and making cakes however it may be unsafe for them to physically use an oven, it may be rewarding for that person to taste freshly baked cake and put their hands in dough. Similarly, if a person used to enjoy making birthday cards, they may enjoy the opportunity to scrunch tissue paper and sort templates.
A care home in Abbeywood unveiled its sensory room this March, which will continue to enhance the loves of the residents who live there. The sensory room at Cedar Court, operated by Four Seasons Health Care, encompasses the latest technology benefitting those with sensory and cognitive impairments. Richard White, Acting Home Manager, said: “The multi sensory room will have a fantastic effect on the residents here at Cedar Court. It’s the creation of Richard, a resident here at the home, and his family. They wanted to provide something special that Richard and the other residents at Cedar Court could use and enjoy on a regular basis”. There is anticipation for the sensory room to enhance the specialist care that is already being provided at Cedar Court. The staff at the Care Home are hoping the multi sensory room will offer a tranquil and stimulating environment for everyone at the home as well as their friends and family.
What are the key things to include in your multi sensory room?
When you are creating a multi sensory room for your care home, it is vital to consider these key senses:
1) Sight- ensure your multi sensory room includes a wide variety of images, various colour, and material of various optical qualities, such as shiny, reflective and transparent visuals.
2) Touch- ensure the sensory space includes materials and objects featuring a large variety of different surfaces, texture and feel. Your staff could invest in some fur rugs and even possibly a running fountain for residents to feel and experience.
3) Temperature- our care home’s multi sensory room needs to include a variety of temperatures for the residents to experience, for example, a cold breeze and a warm vibration.
4) Taste- ensure that the food and drink you provide in your sensory room offers a variety of opposing tastes and temperatures. For example, you may want to include both hot and cold drinks. If you are providing snacks, you may want to provide a mixture of sour citrus fruits alongside sweet foods such as sherbet and peppermint. Another way you can add alteration to the foods your residents will be tasting is through including different textured foods, such as the inclusion of both popcorn and jelly.
5) Smell- when you are choosing different scents to be included in your multi sensory room, it is useful to find out more information about the individual residents in your care home. This will help you to find out which scents will be appreciated for personal reasons by your residents. For example, if a lot of your residents used to take up a gardening hobby, you may want to include some flowers in the multi sensory room. Popular fragrances such as lavender and jasmine often remind people of certain times in their lives, therefore you more you find out about the lives of your residents, the better the result will be.
6) Sounds- when considering sounds for your room, it is important to avoid anything too loud or startling that may confuse residents. It is wise to stick to relaxing sounds and environmental themes such as bird sounds, rivers, streams and instruments.
7) Movement: although you need to avoid any movement that is too strenuous, you should allow your residents to experience different gentle movements. For example, you could include a rocking chair and bean bag with soft surfaces to lay down on.
After using multi sensory rooms, residents will not only feel more alert and aware of their surroundings, but you may also see an improvement in patients’ moods.
You can browse through Countrywide Healthcare’s own range of sensory products for people living with Dementia here.