GRANVILLE — Most nursing homes are unrelentingly bright.
But at Slate Valley Center, the activities director recently built a room that’s dimly lit by a glowing tube of colored bubbles.
It’s a sensory room, just like the ones often built for children with autism. It soothes patients with Alzheimer’s.
“A resident who’s feeling agitated and anxious can come in here and feel relieved,” said activities Director Marijo Natale.
There’s a reclining chair next to the bubble light, aromatherapy burbling in the corner and soft music playing in the background. The room has interesting items to explore, including a board of latches hanging at wheelchair height. Residents can try to open and close each one.
Resident Jim Armstrong, 89, of Greenwhich, can’t remember exactly when he was born or where he lived. But he lit up when his one-on-one activities assistant pushed his wheelchair to the latches.
“It’s perfect for someone like Jim, because he always wants to tinker. He built his own house,” Natale said.
Now he struggles just to slide a barrel bolt closed. But even after his aide stopped helping him move his hand, he kept at it, trying again and again.
Suddenly, the bolt clicked closed.
“You did it!” activities assistant Bridget Pietryka said in surprise and delight. “Way to go, Jim!”
Slowly, Jim’s mouth edged upward. He was smiling.
Pietryka took him to the sensory room to try it out during her activities time with him.
“A lot of times, I’ll sit and read with him,” she said. “I wanted to get Jim out of the hallway so he could do something.”
Fresh off his latch triumph, she took him around the room. He explored the textured touch pads on the wall — also at wheelchair height — then pushed a bead around a maze.
Natale built the room herself. It opened in January, and the center is running a cake sale on Valentine’s Day to raise money for additions to the room. They want to buy a light dimmer and a string of lights to hang on a curtain.
For now, she just turns off the bright overhead light. With the glowing bubble light and light from the hallway, it’s bright enough to see. But with a light dimmer, they could control the environment better.
“We’re either dark or getting a sun tan,” Natale said of the overhead fluorescent lights.
But residents are happy with what she managed to put together so far.
“It brings a very soothing, calming experience to them,” Natale said.