The human touch

By HBH - 30 July 2019

The human touch

Sensory stimulation a vital part of dementia care

Human touch is essential for anyone at any age: they say we all need at least ‘a hug a day’. Yet as we age, human touch is often severely reduced. This can lead to feelings of isolation and cause increased anxiety and agitation, especially for those with dementia.

The staff at HBH Senior Living observed that those who were less able to engage in interactive group activities, such as patients with dementia, had a greater risk of becoming even more isolated and lonely.

Studies also show that sensory and memory stimulation therapies have the potential to help improve many dementia-specific issues for individuals living in aged care facilities.1

So, as part of the Eden Alternative, a philosophy of care that aims help older people feel as healthy, happy and fulfilled as possible, HBH Senior Living has initiated regular ‘sensory stimulation’ sessions for patients.

These twice weekly sessions are currently carried out in the Hospital or Minerva Community, usually run by Jacki or Bharti. The dining room is setup to create a relaxed and calm environment, with subdued lighting, candles and soft music, to stimulate four of the five senses – touch, smell, sound, and sight.

A range of aromatherapy oils are used – mostly recognisable scents such as rose, patchouli and ylang ylang – to stimulate and exercise the olfactory sense. Loss of the sense of smell is often associated with people living with dementia and the different oils used in sensory stimulation show promise for treating symptoms of agitation, improving sleep and the quality of life for those affected.

Residents can also experience a hand or foot massage in these sessions – only after observing a resident’s reaction and close monitoring of the resident’s level of comfort. Research suggests that even a five to ten-minute hand massage can provide invaluable human interaction, which is at the core of caring for people with dementia.

The outcome is a very calming, relaxing and therapeutic environment. The staff reports that the residents appear to enjoy these sensory sessions, and they seem to be making a positive improvement on their quality of life.

Lisa Waldren