A growing amount of research shows that these disruptions can cause residents more than mere irritation. Noise can elevate a person’s heart rate and blood pressure, and increase muscle tension and metabolism. It can even suppress their immune system.
Noise has a particularly powerful effect on those with dementia—individuals who comprise a significant percentage of the long-term care population. This type of stimulus has been shown to trigger agitation and aggressive behaviour. It can also decrease the caloric intake of this group, who are already at higher risk for weight loss.
In addition, noise prevents residents from getting the rest they need. While it’s not responsible for all awakenings, its contribution can be significant because the elderly are particularly sensitive to acoustical changes in their environment.
Sleep deprivation can lead to problems during the day such as agitation, depression, delirium, memory problems, and decreased tolerance to pain. It can also worsen existing health conditions and increase the risk of falls.
However, residents aren’t the only ones affected by noise. Such disruptions make it difficult for staff to concentrate, causing fatigue and errors, which can adversely impact the quality of care they provide. Speech privacy is yet another acoustical concern, particularly in and around administration areas where conversations take place regarding residents, staff and general business operations.
Taking steps to improve acoustics will have positive impacts on both residents and their caregivers.