Left to right : Mary McEvoy Activities Co-ordinator Castlemanor Nursing Home, Gerry Sheridan CEO Ice-cream Treats, Killeshandra, Kathleen Sheridan, Philip Sheridan, Resident, Attracta Donohoe, Aisling Crowe, Mary Brady Activities Co-ordinator, Mike Tonery CEO Trinity Care Group, Carmel Hopkins Director of Care Castlemanor Nursing Home, Sherin Varghses Assistant Director of Care Castlemanor Nursing Home.

Castlemanor’s new sensory unit

Castlemanor Nursing Home recently opened a multi-sensory room, known as a Snoezelen Room to help enhance the lives of residents with dementia.

Snoezelen stems from the Dutch words ‘snuffelen’ which means ‘to explore’, and ‘doezelen’, which means to relax. It involves being placed in relaxing spaces that help reduce agitation and anxiety, but they can also engage and delight the user, stimulate reactions and encourage communication using things like music, lighting and other sensory materials.

The room was installed thanks to funding from Gerry Sheridan, of Ice Cream Treats Killeshandra, following a series of charity events. Gerry’s father Philip is also a resident in Castlemanor.

After cutting the ribbon for the event Gerry spoke of how he organised the fundraiser: “Every year at Ice Cream Treats we pick a charity to support. Last year we picked a local cancer charity, this year we picked Castlemanor nursing home, because it is close to our hearts. My father has been here since before Covid started.”

Gerry has been amazed by the amount of support he has received in raising funds for this cause.

“We were blown away by the amount of support. We climbed Cuilcagh, the whole staff in ICT, they were great. We did a Christmas jumper day and collected funds for that. We raised €8,315. Any surplus funding is going to the Dementia Unit here at the nursing home.”

Catherine Dunleavy, clinical operations manager at Trinity Care who operate Castlemanor Nursing Home, explained how the room works: “People with dementia have difficulty taking in, processing and expressing information, as well as communicating with others. This is a way of communicating because it works on the other senses.

“It was initially used for people with intellectual disabilities, with responsive behaviours. Then people looked at its uses across the board and found it could be beneficial for people with dementia who may have responsive behaviours. If they’re upset they need to be in a calm and quiet environment, especially if the environment they are in is too challenging. The sensory room takes them away from that.”

It can also allow people with dementia to communicate and have better relationships with their families according to Catherine.

“It’s about enhancing the quality of life of the resident and is an alternative to using medication for responsive behaviours and getting a calming affect for them. It can also be a nice place for families to bring their loved one, depending on the risk assessment.

“It allows them to have controlled private time and allows for the gap between the resident and family to be bridged. There are studies that show that the created stimulation can resurrect stimulation within people, which can empower people with dementia.”

However, Catherine explains that the room isn’t suitable for all patients.

“You have to be careful when you’re bringing someone in to it. You have to manage their stimulation correctly and you’re aware of their response to the Snoozlen effect. Not everyone reacts well, but it can be frightening for people who are going into a dark room, they may not know what’s going on.”

Carmel Hopkins, Director of Care at Castlemanor said that the nursing home will assess each resident individually to see if they are suitable for the sensory room.”

“We’ll do a risk assessment to see who is suitable and do ongoing reviews. Some individual elements of the room won’t suit different residents so we have to manage and review that on an ongoing basis.”