After 5 years of being surrounded by people with dementia, aged care facilities and hospitals I have come to a conclusion. Noise seems to be at the bottom of many behavioural issues when it comes to people with dementia and we need to do something about it.
Noise ….It is EVERYWHERE! and we are not putting enough emphasis on it when we search for answers why people with dementia act the way they do. They often cannot express their feelings or thoughts, and maybe we are chasing the wrong things?
I have some video of Dad in hospital and when I played it back I was shocked to hear the noise and it was not only ‘too loud’, the ever repeating beeping alarms on the machines combined with the bed alarms and the constant din of people in the hallways was like a cruel form of ‘water torture’. Can you imagine what it is like to be stuck in a bed all day listening to the same machines beeping over, and over, and over again?…It is no wonder most of the people with dementia in hospital are in the hallways, heading for the locked door trying to get out!
In hospital Dad was manically walking the hallways for 10-12 hours per day across 5 weeks and I believe it was the noise driving this. How do I know this?…because I was walking with him and witnessed a miraculous change in his behaviour that was mind blowing! We transferred him to another hospital which has a ward that specializes in treating people with dementia and surprise,surprise it has no stimulus, no noise, no bright lights and no beeping…just silence. To watch Dad on his first day walk over to a couch and sit down and rest, and be at peace was ‘game changing’. His medications were the same, and the environment was the only thing that was different….conclusion?…enemy no#1…noise!
It is no different in the aged care facilities and some have construction going on for extended periods and the sound of concrete saws, nail guns and jack hammers over breakfast is surely not the best way to start your day? We need to allow people with dementia to enjoy their mealtimes at least, and there should be a no construction noise policy across meal times.
The clanging of the cutlery and crockery on the meal carts needs to be a focus, and the vacuum cleaner is blaring nearly every morning when residents wake up. Is 7am – 9am the best time to be creating that kind of noise?
Nurses and care staff are often carrying phones which have alarms that go off constantly as residents trip their movement sensors in their room alerting them to a resident on the move. This is a great system that protects residents, but in some facilities every single bed alarm is triggered through the same phone and not just a designated area. The result?…the mobile phones on staff are constantly ringing and beeping as they try to attend their residents and invariably setting off unwanted behaviours.
In a nutshell….reduce the noise and reduce the problems. ….Hopefully this blog does not fall on deaf ears.