A Sense of Calm is a resource based on the scientific principles of sensory relaxation and was initially developed while we were caring for my husband Peter’s much-loved mum, Joan who had developed vascular dementia in her seventies.
As Joan’s dementia progressed, she became more and more agitated and frustrated, which was difficult to counteract. She wasn’t sleeping at night; she could not understand why her Mum and Dad hadn’t visited her and wanted to return to her childhood home in Manchester. Her Mum and Dad had long since passed away and her childhood home had been demolished years ago.
One day, we were invited to a session in a sensory room. The whole experience relaxed her considerably and gave her some relief from her agitation. Peter studied psychology as part of his University degree. He is also dyslexia, so he could understand why this sensory approach could work for someone living with dementia as our senses combined with our memory control our understanding of our environment and influence how we interact to our surroundings and the people around us.
To build a sensory room at home would have been expensive and difficult. Added to this, our own experience and talking to professional carers, told us that when someone living with dementia is at their most agitated it can be difficult to persuade them to go anywhere, let alone to a dedicated sensory room, even if it’s just down the hallway. Therefore, we wanted to find a way to bring the benefits of a sensory room to mum at home, in her bedroom and in the lounge, where she spent most of her time.
Peter’s idea was to produce a DVD that encapsulated all the qualities of a sensory room – the beat of the music, the tempo of the moving images and the changes in colour, but while studying the published research on multi-sensory stimulation, he also realised that the images on the DVD should be abstract, because imagery of real places and real things can sometimes bring back adverse, or confusing memories and because memory confusion is one of the major symptoms of dementia it is that confusion that can cause much of the agitation and anxiety. So, after much research we came up with “A Sense of Calm,” a non-memory provoking DVD that provides calming audio and visual stimulation.
The DVD worked as we’d hoped and when we showed it to the mental health professionals and Occupational Therapists, they were very excited about the possibilities of using it not only for dementia, but also for a number of other conditions including, autism and learning difficulties. Joan sadly died a couple of years ago, but we felt compelled to make the DVD available to others, so we developed it further and set up our website www.asenseofcalm.com, where we also give advice and information that came out of our experience as carers.
Dr Graham Stokes of BUPA Care trialled the DVD for nine months before introducing “A Sense of Calm” into all their care homes and we are also getting great feedback from the family carers, care homes and hospitals that are using the DVDs.