Despite what you might think, I don’t actually have shares in a UK sensory website! It all boils down to the fact that the DC team believes not enough is being said about how important sensory items are to those with neurological conditions. The even more worrying news is that despite lots of scientific research, plenty of care homes in the UK don’t have a dedicated sensory room. In many establishments, patients on bedrest are left to stare at blank white walls, with little to no social interaction for hours on end.
I don’t know about you, but in my mind, that amounts to mental torture as even those in prison have someone to talk to. It’s disgusting that we even have to make that comparison because they’ve not done anything wrong, it’s enforced solitary confinement and it should be made illegal at the earliest opportunity!
We all know that dementia can be slowed down by making sure individuals have someone to talk to, play games with and with whom to share their worries. A recent BBC news article revealed that daily ten-minute one-to-one conversations are incredibly beneficial. So why is it that the most vulnerable people in our society are being left with no physical/mental stimulation whatsoever? One argument could be resources, that care home staff just don’t have the time/funds to shell out on expensive sensory equipment. Well, having just taken part in our DIY Sensory Shelf Challenge I’m going to call it for what it is: Codswallop.
The fact is that no matter what your budget is you can make an amazing sensory display for peanuts simply out of things you have at home. After all, a string of fairy lights, a soft fluffy toy, some plant cuttings and some smooth pebbles won’t set you back much! Care homes could even ask the staff members to bring in an item each week, a bit like show and tell I suppose to create a fantastic weekly sensory display.
An alternative might be to establish a sensory “kitty” and budget for larger items like bubble lamps, fiddle cushions, dolls houses etc. However, good care / nursing homes don’t need to be told this information and quite often sensory rooms/gardens are their pride and joy. The staff and residents alike love the peace and quiet, twinkly lights and fun textures that aim to encourage exploration and mental stimulation. Unless you’re operating on the tiniest of shoestring budgets it should be entirely possible to buy lots of sensory items.
Another point people will probably make is that there’s not enough training. Like in every other industry, you will find that there are good and bad care homes and attitudes extend right down to the lowest levels. A positive, engaging atmosphere and a staff who’s willing to learn will embrace sensory theory far more than a venue with a negative outlook.
Again, it’s about making sure that everyone understands the importance of sensory items and just how much they help fight the condition. All while encouraging residents to share any memories that they recall – even if it’s just a certain sound or smell. It also goes without saying, that dementia training courses are vital for carers to understand how much of an impact the condition really has.
Our founder Emily, has herself has attended a Dementia Awareness Day where a team make you physically experience how dementia feels, and the sheer helplessness that comes with being unable to do anything yourself. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and I’m still unsure if I myself would take part but Emily has and reports that several members of her group were in tears by the end. For those of you who’d like to hear more about her experience stay tuned as it’ll be featured on the blog soon!
However, anyone who is looking after / working with someone with dementia should do their utmost to understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Knowledge is power and having the right education makes the difference between a good dementia care nurse and a great one. We’re not saying that all staff need to be specialists, but they should at least know what sensory is, and what items can help i.e flashing lights that encourage focus and mental acuity.
Another issue I’ve noticed is basic awareness because if you know you know, but if you don’t I may as well be speaking Japanese right now. Over the last few years, we’ve moved away from the idea that sensory items are just for children, experts now believe that lights, scents, sounds and textures can help anyone whose suffered brain trauma or indeed has complex emotional issues.
For instance, our sense of smell and memory are so intricately linked that the smell of freshly cut grass immediately transports me back to my primary school playing field! It’s the same with sound, a certain tune can bring back long forgotten memories and rhymes will help people retain information easier than just plain sentences.
Lights aren’t just pretty, they stimulate the brain to work out where the flashing is coming from and focus our attention much quicker than someone calling our name. Put all these things together and you have an incredible super sensory kit that can help someone even in the most advanced stages of dementia!
If your loved one is in a care / nursing home without sensory items, or even worse is on bedrest with little interaction then please do the following: Either speak to the staff about creating a mini sensory space just for them, or take plenty of items with you when you visit!