Sensory Stimulation / Recreation Therapy

We use our senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch, and proprioception, the relationship to our body in space, to experience the world around us. The senses send messages to our brain and the brain tells our bodies how to respond. You hear loud noises and you cover your ears. A spot light is shined in your eyes, so you close them. You prick your finger on a pin and you pull away from the pain. All of these are sensory responses that our bodies make.

When a person suffers a brain injury, often their senses do not work as they did before. Their attention span, level of alertness, tactile feelings among other things are decreased due to the damage. Their vision and hearing can be affected and if they are on a ventilator, their sense of smell and taste are almost nonexistent.

sensory stimulation

Sensory stimulation programs have been shown to be effective with residents in coma/PVS or people with low or minimal response levels as a way to increase level of alertness and attention which allow us, the therapists to move onto other goals.

At Fox Subacute Center, we use sensory stimulation to elicit any change in response of our residents. We use hand and neck massages for tactile stim, different types of music at different volumes for auditory stim, bright objects for vision, and very small amounts of food and drink on the tongue tip for taste. We move the resident around in their chair for spatial relationship in an effort to get a change in their response. Do they open their eyes when their name is called? Do they follow the therapist with their eyes? Do they pull away when they feel discomfort from range of motion? Do they show an increased level of awareness?

The first level of success is to see isolated responses to the stim. The therapist will continue to work on this goal until the responses become more consistent and/or functional. When this happens we begin to see higher level responses which signals that the resident is ready for higher level goals. Many times our residents do not even get past the first level. These residents will continue to receive sensory stimulation in the hopes that their responses will change.

At Fox Subacute Center, the recreation department runs two sensory stimulation groups two times per week. Residents can also be seen on an individual basis if warranted. They also receive stim throughout their day from other staff. ADLs performed by nursing and therapy often involve using sensory stim. Washing a resident, combing their hair, doing range of motion, socializing with a resident are all examples of sensory stimulation. All of these are done throughout the day in the hopes of gaining a response from the resident, which tells us that they are on the way to recovery.

Residents and Recreation Therapy

Fox Subacute isn’t just a facility, it’s the home of all of our residents. We have a packed calendar at each of our facility locations and even visit each other for more fun. Please visit our Events Calendar and join us! Schedule a tour of any one of our facilities and we’ll be happy to share with you all of the fun things we have planned for our residents.

We look forward to meeting with you and your family!

Stephanie Parker

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