A Sensory Approach to Senior Care
Connectivity, interactivity, controllable environments; modern day buzzwords you may think. High-tech jargon attached to new modes of communication perhaps? Possibly. Far removed from the day-to-day care of the elderly? Almost certainly.
SensoryPlus believe differently. SensoryPlus believe these 21st century terms are merely an unnecessary distraction to the most important aspect of senior care - conversation. In the field of multi-sensory equipment, now firmly established in most care and educational environments, the pursuit of technological advance frequently provides obstacles and opportunity in equal measure.
Too frequently multi-sensory provision in care homes is over complicated and leans too heavily on various suppliers’ experience of educational installations, failing to understand the differing needs of the elderly and neglecting the power and happiness found in simple conversation. Whether the topic be discussing today’s weather, a bygone event or a family member, conversation and creating an environment to harness it, are the key drivers in any specification. Simplicity should be at the heart of any equipment selected for a nursing home, promoting relaxation in a context appropriate to the resident and crucially, the caregiver.
Sensitivity to this simple directive and the specific needs of the senior age group is more important than demonstrating the most advanced possibilities of the equipment. SensoryPlus Product Manager, David Payne suggests this is being overlooked too readily;
“Many sensory companies are failing to grasp some of the fundamental issues involved in designing and installing sensory environments for the older person. Posture and appropriate seating is neglected in the quest to squeeze more and more equipment and tools into the designated area. Of course, each customer’s needs are different and no one layout or collection of equipment fits all, but you have to question under what context sufferers of dementia are meant to grasp or contextualise the sensory overload some rooms would subject them to?”
The SensoryPlus approach attempts to provide a more integrated low-key environment as closely matched to a typical lounge area as possible. Maintaining day-to-day prompts, like paintings, plants and decor helps establish a context for the resident. Complimenting this environment with a projector or bubble tube facilitates the use of standard residential furniture or the resident’s own postural seating, promoting comfort and a productive use of the room far more effectively, typically, than bead bags or a waterbed.
As The College of Occupational Therapists and the National Association for Providers of Activities for Older People set out guidelines to place greater emphasis on promoting a culture of activity, the use of a sensory room and sensory equipment has more potential than ever. The new guidelines also focus on participation and community, two facets of life in a care home that reach back to the most powerful tool at the disposal of the care teams; conversation.
Georgina Carr, Reminiscence Coordinator at Frognal House, Sidcup – part of the Sunrise Senior Living Group – comments on a simple environment created by SensoryPlus to aide her work with those with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
“The sensory equipment has provided our seniors with a calming area to relax in; a stimulating area for those further down the journey of Dementia. A room in which relatives can relax with their loved one whilst sharing the sensory experience. The equipment blends into the room, not standing out garishly or looking frightening.”
Simple, integrated and effective should be the watchwords when planning a sensory room in an elderly setting - and not a buzz word in sight!