Multi-sensory room helps those suffering from strokes

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SARASOTA, Fla. -- May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Now a new multi-sensory room on the Suncoast helps stroke patients and others via neuro-rehabilitation.

Colors, lights, sounds and smells can awaken memories, like your favorite sunset on the gulf, mockingbirds, or a fresh cut lawn. And now a room dedicated to the senses helps Suncoast residents suffering stroke, dementia, and other conditions.

There is a soft blue light, a light citrus scent, and video projected on a wall. “When they walk in that room, their eyes light up,” says Heidi Brown, CEO of Kobernick Anchin Benderson.

The multi-sensory room at Anchin Pavilion makes a difference to residents, she says. “They're so excited to have the sights, and the smells, and the sounds that they're not having in the opportunity to experience on a day to day basis.”

Colors trigger emotions, but it’s not just the color that resident Helen Waldman likes. “It’s smooth, it feels smooth.”

She enjoys the nature scenes of butterflys. “And fish, because they're gentle.”

The variety of sensory stimulation helps many people, including those suffering stroke, says activities director April Moschini. “Usually people who have a stroke are affected on one side.”

Moving sand from one side to another incorporates both sides of the body. “Being able to use things that are tactile and using both of the sides of your body helps bring them back to baseline.”

The swinging chair awakens vestibular stimulation. “That is for somebody with limited mobility. It allows them to feel what it's like to move in space again.”

Registered nurse Judith Yaeger says she sneaks into the room every chance she gets to play with her personal favorite, the fiberoptic strands. “They change colors; they're not supposed to be warm, but they are a little warm, and they're just very relaxing, you can do all kinds of things with them.”

Moschini say dramatic changes occur with patients suffering aphasia, when a person's previous capacity to understand or express language is impaired. “They may suddenly be stimulated to be verbal, or vocalize something.”

Brown remembers the room’s effect on a specific non-verbal patient’s reaction. “She was actually able to smile and laugh, and have a conversation, and that's the benefit.”

Sensory perception and multi-sensory rooms and tools are used and help people with a number of conditions, including PTSD and brain trauma.

The multisensory room at Anchin Pavilion is open to the community, and receives outside clients by appointment. It is located at 1959 Honore Avenue in Sarasota.