SENSORY ROOM FOR PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA
How can we enrich the quality of everyday life for people with dementia through sensory experience?
I started working on the sensory room by looking at various examples, guidelines and ideas on how to help stimulate the senses of people with dementia. Research shows that deprivation of sensory stimulation and appropriate activity has a devastating impact on our wellbeing and health. Older people who are limited in their physical and cognitive abilities need to be offered and helped to engage in activities that provide multisensory stimulation as they may not be able to access it by themselves. The right level of sensory stimulation helps to relieve stress, boredom and aggressive behaviour as well as enhances the feeling of comfort and wellbeing.
The Sensory Room, also called Snoezelen or Multi-Sensory Environment (MSE), is a space where one can enjoy a variety of sensory experiences and where gentle stimulation of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell and movement) can be provided in a controlled way. Stimulation can be increased or decreased depending on the therapeutic needs of the user. Such spaces offer a range of activities that can either be sensory stimulating or calming in their effects.
Examples of sensory rooms for people with dementia.
Things that are recommended when designing a sensory room are the use of different textures, light stimulation, sachets with different scents, projections on the fabric and devices with gentle vibration. The interaction is not supposed to be complex; it should allow people to be independent and to focus on the objects that interest them. The sound system should be good and the atmosphere in the room as relaxing as possible. The activities offered should be suitable for people with dementia both cognitively and visually, as the appearance of the tools can often be very childish. The room should also be comfortable and offer users as much independence as possible.
Sensory room floor plan.
After the research I began designing the floor plan, and as can be seen in the picture, I suggested dividing the room into two smaller spaces, where the right part would be dedicated to creative activities and the left to relaxation. With the help of coloured curtains, the atmosphere of the room could easily be changed and manipulated. I also had an idea to install small prisms next to the windows to achieve refraction of light and consequently interesting patterns on the ceiling.
In the left part, I suggested the possibility of almost complete dimming, so that various lighting devices, such as fibre optic curtains, bubble lights and projection on the walls, can be observed without interruption. Larger lights should be dressed in wadded material that would mimic the look of clouds and emit gentle light. Fibre optic curtains could be placed behind the sofa so that residents would be able to use them freely when sitting there. I proposed several different pleasant textures on the sofa and armchairs, and cushions with various patches to stimulate the sense of touch. Scented sachets and etheric oils should create a pleasant and soothing scent. For more privacy, each corner could be enclosed by pull curtains to create a more intimate atmosphere. In the upper right corner, I wanted to place several different toys and instruments, such as a rain stick (since it has a soothing sound and is interactive) and perhaps also an electronic piano that can be turned off, as research often emphasizes the importance of music and the ability to create.
Ideas for the sensory room.
During my research, I came across many articles on how art and cognitive therapy can be beneficial to people with dementia. I therefore wanted to create a new way of being creative for people with dementia using a specially designed art station. I had an idea to create a sustainable, safe area for art, without it being messy or dangerous, where residents can be creative without the need of caregivers’ strong supervision. Caregivers could use the art station as something simple to help the residents relax, or it could be used for art, cognitive and sensory therapy.
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