Someone's giving you a fantastic hand massage and all around
are the lights of a Pink Floyd concert, the sound of crashing waves
and the bracing scent of sandalwood. It's not a fantasy; it's
Pronounced SNOOZE-e-len, the multi-sensory technique that doubles
as a recreational opportunity is being offered in 200 sites across
Freeman Reason, 96, who is living with dementia, enjoys the Snoezelen program at Sunrise Richmond Hill. Proponents say a highly sensory environment can benefit people of all ages.
Snoezelen comes from the Netherlands, and owes its unique name
to its Dutch roots. Caregivers in Holland noticed children with
disabilities benefited from a highly stimulating environment. Tense
muscles relaxed, attention spans increased, speech patterns changed,
children enjoyed the environment, and the effects lasted for some
News of the program spread and Snoezelen gained popularity throughout
the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In 1992, Snoezelen arrived
at Toronto's Bloorview Macmillan Centre for Children with Disabilities.
Since then, an increasing amount of research suggests a highly sensory
environment can benefit people of all ages, particularly those with
cognitive challenges, such as Alzheimer disease.
Today, some of the more sophisticated Canadian operations use a
dedicated Snoezelen room containing an assortment of sensory equipment:
bubble tubes, black lights, glowing fibre optics, music, scented
oils, and highly tactile surfaces.
At Ottawa's Carlingview Manor, recreation therapist and certified
Snoezelen trainer Jennifer Raftis has launched a program that includes
both a dedicated room and a mobile Snoezelen cart that rolls out
to residents who have difficulty walking.
Snoezelen fibre optics.
"We've had some really exciting results with Snoezelen.
For example, one resident who was essentially non-verbal joined
us in the Snoezelen room and started chatting with her daughter,"
Raftis says. One of the best parts is that this is self-directed
leisure. That's especially important for residents whose conditions
limit their choices throughout an average day."
Raftis and the Carlingview Manor recreation team are now looking
into a Snoezelen bath for residents who become anxious
Fran Roberts, the marketing and communications adviser for the
Alzheimer Society of Ontario, is often approached with questions
about different forms of programming, including multi-sensory recreation.
Snoezelen can provide an effective channel for communication
between a person with Alzheimer's and another individual. This
is particularly true late in the disease process when verbal communication
skills are significantly impaired, Roberts says.
She cautions that these techniques must be used appropriately.
Snoezelen is by no means a quick fix. Its value depends on
how well caregivers know their residents and on how well they adapt
the program to individual preferences.
Sunrise Senior Living operates a Snoezelen room in each of its
homes throughout the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, including
Sunrise Richmond Hill near Toronto.
Like Carlingview Manor, Sunrise Richmond Hill has both a dedicated
Snoezelen room and a mobile cart in its "Reminiscence Neighbourhood"
a floor designed especially for people with dementia. Reminiscence
co-ordinator Pat Butcher is a strong advocate of Snoezelen for helping
I've taken somebody who's really sad and crying,
introduced them to some of the equipment, and together we build
until they feel a little better, and continue building until we
end up laughing together, Butcher says. At Sunrise,
every resident has access to the Snoezelen room. I leave the door
open and have one or two pieces of equipment going the fibre
optics or the projector and often find residents relaxing
on their own.