A sensory gift to residents

A sensory gift to residents.

Photo: A sensory gift to residents.

The last of the five human senses to disappear in old age is reportedly smell, so it isn’t surprising when Victoria’s Bupa Thomastown aged care home found success in its ‘sensory towel’ initiative.

The initiative is simply a wet towel, which is later warmed, with a drop or two of sweet orange essential oil. While it may not sound like much, the benefit to residents has been astounding, with the team at Bupa Thomastown recently awarded an Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency Better Practice award for innovation.

Bupa Thomastown’s diversional therapist, Jo Bozin, tells DPS News the initiative has allowed residents to become more alert in some circumstances and, most importantly, increased their appetite.

“There’s less food returning to the kitchen and residents are more settled,” Ms Bozin says.

She adds sweet orange oil can also evoke memories in residents and explains how those residents who required physical assistance are now starting to eat independently.

Pictured is Bupa Thomastown resident, Elsie, who was in the initial group of residents trialling the intervention.

With a background in aroma therapy, Ms Bozin says sweet orange oil is primarily an appetite stimulant.

The project, which initially consisted of eight residents, now has 33 active participants of the home’s 44 residents.

“It’s all very simple. All you need is access to a microwave and sink. It’s so simple and natural that everybody can use it.

“Nothing compares to the smell of an orange just freshly cut,” she says.

Did you know…

  • Sweet orange oil has a sweet, fresh and tangy smell, is yellow to orange in colour and watery in viscosity. The shelf life is approximately six months.
  • This evergreen tree has dark green leaves and white flowers and bright orange round fruit with roughish skin. The trees are native to China, but are now cultivated extensively in America.
  • Orange oil is used in many Curacao-type liqueurs and for the flavouring of food, drink and confectionery and when added to furniture polish, helps to protect against damage from insects.
  • Orange oil is extracted from the orange peel by cold-pressing.
  • The therapeutic properties of orange oil include antiseptic, anti-depressant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and sedative.

Bupa Thomastown is now trialling a skin lotion to benefit residents’ skin as they age. Ms Bozin claims 99.9% of body lotions used in aged care homes are chemical-based.

Bupa Care Services Pty Ltd