SensoryPlus has designed, developed and installed four sensory environments for St Luke's Hospital in Attleborough, Norfolk aimed at improving the quality of life of their patients. The hospital has an adult unit, providing 24 beds, registered to take 16 males and 8 females aged
Manager, Russell Channer, a Registered Nurse for Learning Disabilities and a Social Worker, believes this is the age demographic that can benefit most from the hospital's expertise and highlights the importance of sensory work and development of these facilities. Mr Channer commented,
"The current fully operational Occupational Therapy Block offers an exciting range of sensory environments designed by SensoryPlus."
Mr Channer stressed the importance of this level of sensory investment into hospitals such as St Luke's, which provides specialist care that until very recently was just not available to people with these kind of disabilities. Working with partners such as SensoryPlus, the hospital is able to care for patients who have diagnosed learning disabilities, yet whose main issues may be mental health related illnesses such as depression.
Sensory stimulation is vital to the patients, many of whom are referred to St Luke's with behavioural problems, often caused or amplified by lack of appropriate mental stimulation. Stimulants such as colour, audio and/or visual, even tactile experiences can reach them in a way that a cognitive therapist sitting at a table cannot. Stimulation at the hospital is tailored to the patient's individually assessed needs. Some may only need soft lighting, music and the opportunity to practice calming techniques, while others have the opportunity to express themselves with the use of loud music in a safe environment and the chance to let off steam. As a whole, the sensory facilities at the hospital provide a multi purpose environment, to encourage relaxation but also with the option of appropriate stimulation.
David Payne, Manager of SensoryPlus was first invited to discuss St Luke's sensory needs by Jill Ashford, Speech & Language Therapist. Having had various companies present their ideas and tell her what she needed, she was impressed by David's more open approach. Jill commented;
"I remember David saying, you tell me what you think you need and I'll offer suggestions and show you what we at SensoryPlus can do. From that moment, I knew I could only work with David and the results have been amazing."
Patients at St Luke's are benefiting from the sensory investment, with different rooms catering to patient's individual needs. On a one to one basis, they are able to enjoy the Sound Studio, which has a high specification sound system that boasts disco lighting and separate 'mood' lights. These can also be programmed to go through a diverse series of displays. Jill Ashford added
"This room really appeals to patient's in the 20's to mid 30's age group who can enjoy loud music and a more actively stimulating environment. However, the mood is interchangeable with a more calming environment by simply changing the lighting and putting on a soothing CD. People already in a relaxed state of mind use the 'Occupational Therapy block' benefiting from the soft textured walls with wavy edges to give it that nautical effect and cushioned floors to create a soft and comforting environment. There is also an enclosed area with a large comfortable bead bed, which produces a similar effect to a waterbed, allowing occupants to practice their relaxation techniques."
Walk through the stimulating fibre optic curtain and patients enter the Light Studio, which provides respite for those who want to relax in a more gentle and calming environment. The partitioning curtain lends itself to dual purposes, not only providing a division between sensory areas, it also gives background lighting for relaxation purposes, as well as becoming a sensory tactile experience as patients touch or move through the curtain.
The Light Studio features vibrating soundboard floors, innovative 'wall inset' bubble panels and bead bags to sit on. Lights can be switch operated, providing a valuable introduction to those learning about cause and effect, which is often a precursor toward improved communication. Jill Ashford added;
"The Light Studio is particularly effective as we have the ability to change the room into a private cinema with lights down the side, to give it that cinema feel and for me, that alone sets it apart from any other sensory environments I've seen. Through the use of a projector and a wall featuring four cream coloured central panels, patients can watch DVD's as a treat, allowing valuable visual and audio stimulation to be integrated into a positive behaviour reinforcement program."
The SensoryPlus approach to St Luke's - David Payne, SensoryPlus Manager
"The work conducted for St Luke's is probably the most conspicuous example of SensoryPlus' collaborative approach to delivering multi-sensory and soft environments.
I've been eager to encourage the ethos of collaboration it ensures the customer 'buys-in' to the proposal and more importantly utilises their knowledge, experience and skills to the best effect. Too often customers are offered 'off the peg' solutions. It is true that certain client groups have similar needs but experience has taught me that every client and every end service user is different. It was that approach that appealed to Jill Ashford at St Luke's, an enthusiastic, engaged and experienced speech and language therapist she had a firm grasp of the needs of the residents. Flexibility and age appropriateness were both key drivers for Jill.
In addition to these two areas, SensoryPlus is also helping St Luke's cater for other aspects of their broader care plan; in fact the Light and Sound Studio are only one level of a three-tier provision. Facilities like St Luke's also need to accommodate the more challenging behaviour of service users up to and beyond crisis point.
A seclusion provision is also available to staff on the individual units. Featuring wall and floor padding and calling on our extensive experience of manufacturing and installation techniques for these types of environments, this room is an essential tool for managing behavioural problems. To help staff reduce the need for seclusion, and in partnership with Jill, an interim calming area was also developed on the units. Featuring 'wavey-topped' wall padding it remains safe but also features music via a ceiling mounted system, controlled from outside the room, and a fibre optic ceiling too. This is designed to allow staff to recognise the first signs of stress or anxiety in service users and intervene to calm and relax and reduce the need for seclusion."