A Case Study in Snoezelen as Alzheimer's Treatment From the USA

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Helping people with cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer's disease, dementia or a developmental disability can be a challenge for healthcare professionals, but area seniors residing at the Georgetown Assisted Living neighborhood of Keswick Pines Life Care Community in New Jersey now have an alternative means of therapy available. It is called the Snoezelen Program, a type of care that centers around a highly interactive therapy developed to decrease and relieve agitation, communication difficulties, combative and wandering behaviors, depression and other debilitating effects associated with Alzheimer's and other cognitive-impairments.

The Snoezelen program\'s multisensory approach to dealing with the effects of cognition impairment provides a powerful supplement to traditional medical treatments. Instead of relying solely on medicine, residents at Georgetown Assisted Living now look forward to a nonintrusive, more interactive and enriching experience, which involves therapy on five levels of human experience, including smell, sight, hearing, touch and, at times, taste. Methods such as aromatherapy, tactile massage, fiber-optic spray, familiar music and colorful, moving pictures are part of an overall experience that helps calm and provide comfort to residents, increasing an overall sense of well-being.

Debbie Conroy, activities director of healthcare at Keswick Pines Life Care Community, implemented the Snoezelen program late last year and explains a typical trip to the Snoezelen room, saying, "First we decide on a particular theme and then put together a program of experiences to provide continuity. If the theme centers on the change of seasons, all of the senses would be utilized to experience the theme. To begin, upon entering the room, participants hear the sound of birds singing and chirping to welcome them, while a visual projector would provide colorful, relaxing, abstract images. Residents see the seasons change in front of them as the other senses are stimulated with fragrance, lotion and sound. It is a costly program, but so worthwhile; we see a measurable change and uplift in behavior."

There are many variations of the Snoezelen experience. Sometimes the visual projector is used to simulate a waterfall or sunrise, or display familiar sights that help participants connect with familiar experiences. Best used by small groups of five to six people, or with a single individual, the program\'s main goal is to increase awareness of surroundings. The many "props" stimulate the residents as well as decrease anxious, repetitive behaviors that are normal with dementia or Alzheimer's disease. Also, all of the Snoezelen room experiences are set up to aid in memory recall and decrease anxiety, pain or depression.

Conroy, a state and nationally certified activity professional, focuses on the development of therapeutic activity programs for the elderly. After attending a Snoezelen seminar several years ago, she became increasingly interested in alternative methods of care for the cognitively impaired and took the initiative to begin implementing the Snoezelen program at Keswick Pines. Her plans to further the effectiveness of the program at the Life Care Center include becoming a certified Snoezelen trainer. Conroy is excited about the results at Keswick Pines. "It\'s been really amazing," she says. "We've only been using it a short time, but we already see such beneficial results."

Located in Whiting, N.J., Keswick Pines currently provides three Snoezelen sessions a week. The therapy is primarily used with cognitively impaired patients, but other residents have taken interest in it as well.

Bill Janson is executive director for Keswick Pines. He can be reached at (732) 849-0400. For more information, visit www.keswickpines.com .


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