A purpose-built sensory room to help dementia patients to communicate their thoughts and feelings is about to officially open at Ysbyty George Thomas, in Treorchy, thanks to the work of occupational therapist Hayley Jones.
The modern facility, established in the Lewis Merthyr Day Unit, uses projected video or photographs, sounds, lights, textures, and smells to stimulate memories about their lives.
Hayley, 33, was supported by Cwm Taf University Health Board to develop the project, as part of her Improving Quality Together Silver Award.
As well as transforming a former day room at the centre, Hayley created computer files for each patient detailing their lives, with photographs and tailored themes.
The images were developed by Hayley by gathering the information from the patient’s ‘This is Me’ document.
The document provides a ‘snapshot’ of the person with dementia, confusion or memory loss, giving information about them, such as needs, preferences, likes, dislikes and interests. This enables staff to treat each person as an individual, reducing distress for them and their carers.
“I knew members of staff would like a sensory room for the patients so I took it on board for my IQT silver award,” said Hayley, who also works at Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant.
“The sitting room which was here before had a dark carpet and old fashioned wallpaper and it has been revamped,”
Her work started last November and the room is now scheduled for an official opening on August 25.
Annette Green, the day unit manager, said that patients with dementia may struggle to communicate.
“Very often, they live in their previous lives,” she said.
“The room can be set up to be all about their life and the things they have in common. Some enjoy music such as the Osmonds or David Cassidy, and by playing music they want to dance.
“Others like to engage with textiles, or doll therapy, or feel comforted by pets. For example, we have a model cat in a basket which purrs when it is stroked.”
Hayley said: “Staff can bring in a patient who may feel quite agitated and the room is a haven, if you like, where they can experience soothing sights or sounds. I have selected images for each patient so that they can have a conversation about the photographs. There are also more generalised files with photos of Rhondda which can be used to stimulate a conversation.”
Patients who had used the room so far had responded well.
“I was very lucky to receive an amount of money from Mental Health to get this project up and running. Everything is now complete other than an official opening,” Hayley said.
The room complies with guidelines on the treatment of patients with dementia.
Dr Paul D Davies, Cwm Taf Assistant Director of Operations (Mental Health), said: “I am delighted to support this development which is making a real difference to the care we provide within our progressive services for people with dementia.
“Hayley and the team have worked extremely well to bring about such a personalised and innovative environment to improve memory, reduce agitation and provide quality of life experiences.
“There is a science basis to this and it is an excellent example in how we apply research to practice and importantly a testament to the high commitment and determination of all our staff.”