- Julie Treadway, CALA
CALA Sensory Training
The first day of the Certified Assisted Living Administrator class, the students participate in a Sensory Training exercise. It consist of eating lunch impaired in a variety of ways. This exercise is to help the students to get a better understanding of what their potential residents might be going through on a day to day basis. The sun glasses are smeared with lotion. This helps them to understand what it is like to try to see through dirty glasses because we all know that a lot of our seniors have poor vision and they even forget to clean their glasses. The dots on the lenses of the glasses represent immaculate degeneration. Each student is required to wear disposable gloves that have rice in the fingers. This simulates neuropathy. The ears are plugged with cotton balls to impair their hearing.
The Sensory Training exercise is conducted at mealtime so the students can feel what it is like to be a senior who lives in an Assisted Living Facility. Right from the beginning of the exercise, talking is almost non-existent. Everyone is concentrating on eating without making a mess on their clothes or at the table. Remember, in an Assisted Living facility, they would be seated with other residents just as they are seated together in the class room. Their finger tips have no feeling because of the rice and holding a fork or a sandwich can be very difficult. Their depth perception is also off kilter. The dirty glasses make it hard to judge the distance to their mouth. If the students do talk, they do it loudly because remember they are hard of hearing with the cotton in their ears.
The exercise affects students in different ways. I have had students cry because the anxiety of trying to eat without making a mess was just too much. Other students have cried because it made them realize what their Mother went through when she was still alive. Some students just quit eating. It is too stressful. They don't want to be embarrassed by a mess. Almost all students eat much slower because they are trying to be careful not to make a mess. This is when I step in and start telling them that "Lunch is almost over. You need to wrap it up". Two minutes later, I repeat the same announcement. The anxiety levels heighten and most of the students stop eating. They are embarrassed that they didn't complete the meal in the allotted time.
The props come off at this point, the students finish eating and we have an open discussion about all the emotions they felt...anxiousness, scared, embarrassment, sadness, angry, relief, still feeling hungry, inadequate, helpless, and childlike. To become a successful Assisted Living Administrator, it is imperative for you to understand some of the hurdles that your residents face. This exercise does just that.