Sit down in the comfy easy chair with its vibrating pillow, slip your feet into the cushy vibrating slippers and you'll think you're on cloud nine. You are. Actually, it's a wee bit of bliss on earth: one of two Snoezelen Rooms at the Perley and Rideau Veterans Health Centre. And it does work some magic for residents with dementia.
Pronounced snooze-lin, Snoezelen is a multisensory therapy designed to gently stimulate the senses - sight, hearing, touch and smell. Its aim is to reduce anxiety and agitation and to foster curiosity, attention and relaxation. It can also help facilitate patient interaction.
Since it was developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s, Snoezelen has been used to help both children and adults, including people with sensory and learning differences - and folks with dementia.
See the difference in behaviour
Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Perley Rideau Foundation, residents with dementia at the health centre on Russell Road are reaping the benefits.
Psychogeriatric resource nurse Sheri LeBlanc is thrilled with the results:
"I really see a difference," she says.
"I see that they stop yelling and their quality of life has improved because they can interact with other residents and staff members."
An example of the effect of Snoezelen
Behaviour issues, such as insistent calling out or yelling, are one of the realities for some people with dementia. Another reality is what's called "sundowning." Sundowning is an increase in agitation, confusion and disruptive behaviour that occurs at sundown or early evening.
Sheri says Snoezelen has been particularly valuable for residents whose calling out has caused them - and others - distress. "If anything I built the room for them."
She mentions one gentleman who is quite vocal. As a result, she explains, "He is socially isolated from the other residents. When he comes in here (to the Snoezelen Room), he stops." She recalls one occasion when two of the other residents were in the room with him "and they were actually able to talk."
Those moments mean a lot and make a difference. That's the magic.
Snoezelenroom not only usefull for residents
On a weekday morning, Desmond Wale and Larry Jenkins are checking out one of the Snoezelen Rooms. There are eye-catching bubble lights and sprays of colourful fibre optic lights that beckon visitors to look and touch. Wooden blocks, soft balls for catching and bright feathers are used to stimulate the sense of touch and to generate tactile, hands-on activities. There's even a collection of aromatherapy oils to tease your nose with pleasant aromas - and elicit a response. Sheri is joking with Larry. He laughs a lot.
But it's not only residents who are enjoying the Snoezelen experience. "We're having a lot of success with the families." The rooms are used to encourage intergenerational activities for residents, their children and grandchildren.
For residents - and staff - the calming influence of Snoezelen can and does make a difference during the sundowning hours. "It's really well used in the evening.
"If we can stop some of the agitation from escalating, if we can redirect it and redirect the focus, then everyone's more comfortable."
And everybody benefits. "It can get pretty sterile living in a long term care facility," Sheri points out. The Snoezelen Rooms are "a nice, pleasant welcoming place for the residents to come to. It offers them some quiet and private time. It's really peaceful."
Next, she's like to provide Snoezelen therapy on wheels. With fundraising support, she's hoping to offer a mobile cart with Snoezelen equipment to be used with palliative care patients. "It's one little thing we can do," she says, "to make a difference for people who live at the Perley Rideau."