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Why is Sensory Stimulation Important for Adults?
It’s important that we find ways to help adults with learning disabilities and dementia live a full and enriched life. Communicating and spending time with family is typically a great way of finding enrichment, but this has been made increasingly difficult due to the current social distancing measures.
Sensory stimulation is a great way of bridging the communication gap, giving people the same sensory aids that they’d get naturally through their day to day lives. Sensory Rooms are popular in care environments for this very reason, as they provide special areas for their residents to explore, reminisce and develop their senses.
What is Sensory Stimulation?
Sensory stimulation is the activation of one or more of the five senses; hearing, smell, taste, touch and vision. Senses are stimulated through a range of activities; from something simple like a hand massage using scented lotion, or listening to a playlist of your favourite music, to more complicated activities designed to provide a deeper sensory experience.
These activities help adults with disabilities and dementia reminisce upon positive memories and emotions, encouraging them to communicate and engage with those around them.
Benefits of Sensory Stimulation for Adults
1) Conversation Starters:
Sensory stimulation offers adults with learning disabilities or dementia a way to express themselves without the need for words. Certain objects can help an individual to ask questions, respond to verbal cues, and remain calm in a stressful situation.
2) Objective Memories:
Sensory objects also evoke positive feelings, helping individuals to relax, improve their mood, self-esteem, and well-being.
A great example could come from a simple seashell. If a senior living with dementia grew up in a seaside town, an item as small as a seashell might bring back warm, happy memories of their childhood home. Feeling the rough texture and weight of the shell in their hands, are simple actions that can also strengthen their cognitive abilities.
3) Expel Fears, Create Trust:
One of the main benefits of sensory therapy is the ability to reduce an individual’s fears by enhancing the trust that they share with their carer.
Many people with cognitive impairments, such as autism and dementia, struggle to understand the world around them. Therefore they feel frightened and unnerved in certain situations, making interacting with others difficult.
Sensory rooms offer residents a stream of positive stimuli that helps to increase their awareness of their surroundings. Consequently, residents will feel at ease in a multisensory space, helping them to open up to their carer, deepening their relationship and level of trust.
Studies have shown that on average most people touch around 300 different surfaces every half an hour. Whereas someone with a profound cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s Disease, will touch only three surfaces. Highlighting how touch deprived many care home residents may be, is why sensory engagement is seen to be especially beneficial.
5) Calming Aggressive Behaviour:
People with autism and dementia may easily become agitated or aggressive, but this is usually because they don’t have a suitable outlet to express their emotions. However, multi-sensory spaces can be used as a safe place for residents to release and explore those emotions. Helping to prevent and reduce the amount of aggressive outbursts and mood swings.
Other benefits of sensory stimulation include:
- Improving cognitive systems and maintaining daily functions
- Encouraging participation in social groups
- Opportunity for reflection and trips down memory lane
- Increased concentration and alertness
- Easing communication struggles
Sensory Stimulation Activities
Sensory stimulation can bring joy to people living with dementia or learning disabilities. Reducing their anxiety and depression and increasing positive social communication.
Sensory stimulation activities work best when they’re linked to a person’s interests, as it helps to maintain a strong connection with their sense of self. Therefore, tailoring activities to individual needs could be considered an important pursuit.
Depending on whether someone is in an early or more advanced stage of memory loss, some activities may be more suitable than others.
Sensory stimulation activities can include:
- Interacting with reminiscent objects that the resident doesn’t usually have access to
- Giving a gentle hand massage
- Taking a short walk outdoors to provide a change of scenery
- Talking or reading aloud to the resident
- Organizing pets to come for visits
- Cooking their favourite meal
- Playing games such as “Guess the Smell,” by filling small, airtight containers with cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, basil, etc
- Creating a ‘Sensory Box’. A simple but special box, filled with personalised items precious to the individual; knick-knacks, holiday photos, an old driver’s license, perfume, awards, and anything else that they may hold dear
Space for Sensory Stimulation
Sensory stimulation can be provided in many different spaces within a care home. From a fixed, well-equipped specialist sensory rooms, to flexible portable sensory trollies – there are plenty of ways for your residents to benefit from this effective form of therapy.
Sensory Room Ideas:
Sensory Bedrooms allow residents to relax and calm down, as a gentle galaxy of stars from a projector help them drift off to sleep.
Sensory Lounges allow residents to experience sensory delight within a communal retreat. A sensory lounges can be combined with Namaste therapy to provide daily therapy sessions in a communal space, gently stimulating the senses, from colour changing sensory lights to tactile activity boards and reminiscence resources.
Sensory Bathrooms allow residents to enjoy sensory stimulation whilst maintaining their personal hygiene. Bathtime can be extremely stressful for those with additional needs, but sensory elements can help them relax, calm down and relieve their anxieties.
Find out more about the benefits of sensory bathrooms!
Sensory Corridors enable stimulation for those with itchy feet. Incorporating sensory tactile panels along corridors provides the perfect opportunity for sensory stimulation whilst residents walk from room to room, providing a purpose for their strolls.
See how we helped Prestwick Care Homes provide sensory activities in their corridors.
Portable Sensory, a sensory space doesn’t have to be limited to one location. Wheel sensory delight from room to room with a Sensory Voyager or our budget Baby Sensory Voyager. Let residents experience sensory stimulation from where they’re most comfortable. Make sure you wipe them down after use, for full sanitary protection.
Contact a member of our team today. We’ll be happy to help you design a bespoke sensory space, perfect for each and every one of your residents.
Find out more about our Care Home Sensory Rooms, and how our Namaste Room helped residents with dementia at Bucklow Manor.