By Executive Director Sarah Starcher-Lane, HFA, ICYB
In 2015, we started out on the journey to develop a room here at Byron Health Center that was a place for our residents to get away from day-to-day stimulation and an overwhelming environment. We requested and received a $20,000 grant from the AWS Foundation to make it happen. So, we set out to do something very unique for our residents.
The idea of our sensory room derived from the Snoezelen® concept; an experiment by two Dutch therapists in the late 1970s at the DeHartenburg Institute. The experiment had a goal to increase enjoyment and sensory experience for those with intellectual disability. The term Snoezelen® is derived from the Dutch verbs “snuffelen” (to seek and explore) and “doezelen” (to relax).
With this thought of exploration and relaxation, Tina Seale RN, current Director of our Miller’s Place Assisted Living (and former Director of Nursing), designed a room for our 2nd floor ladies’ memory care neighborhood. In that room, our ladies can stretch out on a lounger and view bubble walls, be comforted by a weighted blanket, listen to music or have their hands massaged with cocoa butter lotion.
Our awesome maintenance crew brought the whole design and concept together, building our room with pride and attention to detail. Many times, I would go up to check on the progress of the room and find the “guys” watching the bubble walls themselves, looking so comfortable and calm.
We made sure to have black-out curtains so the room could be completely dark if necessary. Our room has varied lighting, a drawing station and a rocking chair. The residents are also able to watch waterfalls, a flickering fire or waves crashing, while laying on a huge adult-sized bean bag. For residents with Huntington’s Disease, this ginormous bean bag chair has been especially beneficial in reducing the frustration and pain of the Chorea that can present with this disease progression. It was also particularly important that our room did not feel child-like, as many of these rooms can become when primary colors are used over and over.
Many of our residents utilize the room to reduce stimulation that can cause the agitation. Not any different than the rest of the general population, our residents like to go to a place alone that is quiet and soothing to calm down.
We encourage families to utilize the room and you can often find residents and their spouses or children lounging in the room, spending time together. This is especially touching to the long-time team member who we named our sensory room after; Violet Ellowsky LPN. She who has been a nurse here at Byron Health Center for over 40 years. Our Snoezelen® room is aptly named the Ellowsky Oasis.
At the end of 2018, we were fortunate to receive another grant from the AWS Foundation to develop an additional sensory room for our current building. We are in the middle of that process and when completed, will be utilized by the residents on our first floor neighborhood.
In our new building, each neighborhood will have a different sensory room with elements applicable to the residents who reside on that particular neighborhood. As we serve many residents with traumatic brain injuries and dementia, the multi-sensory environment allows them to feel a sense of safety when needed the most.
We will also have a sensory room specifically designated for staff in the new building complete with aromatherapy lotions and oils, a massage chair and weighted blanket. This will also serve for a private place for staff to retreat to when a resident passes away; as that is one of the hardest parts of working in healthcare.
Come check out our room and see just how chill we are J