The Impact of Noise on Residents with Dementia
Nursing homes are busy places with lots of ambient noise that fades into background for most of us. Telephones, televisions, trolleys, cleaning equipment, alarms and the constant flow of people all contribute to the acoustic environment.
To someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, whose ability to filter sounds is diminished, this noise can be distressing and disorienting. Noise is a known stressor and has been shown to increase anxiety levels as well as blood pressure, heart rate and fatigue.
Negative noise creates unnecessary stimulation and can make it difficult for the individual to focus on their current activity, such as having a conversation or eating a meal.
In a noisy environment, it can be difficult for someone with dementia to pick out speech and keep track of conversations, this can lead to confusion and feelings of isolation.
Excess noise can cause agitation which in turn can lead to wandering behaviour as the person tries to remove themselves from an overstimulating situation. Sudden noises can cause a startle reflex, leading to distress and disorientation, sometimes even resulting in accidental falls.
Noise at Night
Noise at night-time can result in disturbed sleep, often leading to behavioural problems during the day such as disruptive behaviour and difficulty communicating.
Some noises such as alerts on the nurse call system are absorbed as part of the environment during the day but can seem much louder and cause more disturbance at night.
How can noise levels in the nursing home be managed?
Managing noise positively in the care environment will enhance the well-being and quality of life of all residents but particularly those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
It is possible to improve the care environment for residents with dementia by consciously managing sound levels, even the smallest changes can have a positive impact. Closing doors if it’s noisy on the corridor, turning down the television if it’s too loud and reminding staff to maintain a quiet environment are all actions that can be part of daily duties.
STRATEGIES FOR REDUCING NOISE LEVELS IN THE CARE ENVIRONMENT
Making staff aware of the negative impact of noise on residents is key to creating a more dementia-friendly environment. Educate staff on the adverse effects of noise on a person with dementia and the benefits for their well-being if unnecessary noise is eliminated. Involve staff in the devising of practices to create a comfortable and homely environment for the residents.
There may be no need to have the TV on all the time, if nobody is watching it then turn it down or switch it off. Be conscious of background music, someone with dementia may become anxious or agitated if they don’t like the music or if it’s just adding to the noise levels in the room. Mealtimes can be particularly noisy times of the day so ensure that the noise in the dining room is not excessive.
Keep public and private spaces separate and consider providing a quiet room where residents can relax and converse in an environment where they can process information. Keep unnecessary noise as far away as possible from quiet, private zones within the building.
These are particularly busy times of the day and night, make sure that they don’t happen near rooms of residents with dementia. Staff should also be conscious of the noise from mobile phones, pagers and alarms.
It is important that residents are not kept awake by sounds from other rooms or the corridor. Door surrounds can be a weak point and allow sound to travel through so ensure that they are properly insulated and that there are no gaps. Make sure doors are closed when there is excessive noise in the area.
It is possible to retrofit sound absorbing products such as ceiling tiles and acoustic wall panels, particularly in communal areas such as day rooms and dining rooms. However, this can be expensive so it may also be possible to improve the acoustics in a room through the use of soft furnishings and choice of flooring.
Assign staff to carry out a regular assessment to identify areas where noise levels have become excessive, how this is affecting residents and what improvements can be made.
Nurse Call System
Try to minimise alarm sounds, especially at night-time. Fitting displays in the corridors allows care staff to see calls on the Nurse Call System at all times. Belt pagers or a Carers Watch can be worn by staff to ensure they never miss a resident call. Switching paging devices to vibrate will also help to eliminate alarm sounds.
Patient Wander & Fall Management Alarms
Patient Wander Systems and Fall Monitoring Alarms are essential for the safety of residents who may be prone to wandering behaviour or at risk of falling. These devices by their very nature create an alarm sound which can be distressing for someone with dementia.
It is possible to remove these sounds from the resident’s room by linking these monitors to the nurse call system and using wireless fall monitors whereby the alarm can be placed outside in the corridor.
POSITIVE OUTCOMES OF NOISE REDUCTION
Removing unnecessary noise will reduce the risk of challenging behaviours and lead to a more positive experience for both the resident and their caregivers.
Better Communication & Responsiveness
Reducing noise levels will increase comfort levels and help hearing which allows those with dementia to process information and communicate more easily.
Improved Ability to Focus
Quiet surroundings allow people with dementia to focus on their task or interaction with others. This in turn leads to a better level of self-esteem and overall well-being is enhanced.
Challenging Behaviour Minimised
Quiet surroundings will ensure that the emotional well-being of residents with dementia is supported and levels of agitation, anxiety and depression are reduced.
Fall Risk Reduced
Sudden noises such as those from a bed monitor or the nurse call system can startle a resident causing them to become agitated. This can potentially cause a person to become disoriented and fall. By modifying systems, alarm noises can be minimised and the risk of fall related injuries is reduced.
Enhanced Care Environment
Managing sound levels and adopting a person-centred care approach will help to create a dementia-friendly Nursing Home where residents feel comfortable and safe.
Implementing a few simple strategies to improve the acoustic environment will result in many positive outcomes for not only residents but also for their caregivers and families.
SVC’s low-noise, dementia-friendly solutions help to create a quiet environment which enhances the comfort and well-being of those in your care.
If you would like to talk to us about making your Nurse Call System more dementia-friendly, please call us on 0818 480 480 or email your query to [email protected], we’re always happy to advise.