Dementia (24)

Background  The use of multisensory environments (MSEs) is perceived to be important for individuals with profound and multiple disabilities, although there is limited research on the efficacy of the procedures. After a search of the literature, numerous positive outcomes of MSEs were described. Our research aimed to determine whether the use of an MSE, when applied to increase the level of alertness and interaction, actually leads to this effect.

Methods  A total of 15 facilities in the Netherlands and Belgium agreed to participate in the investigation. Information was gathered on the use of MSE by 177 individuals. For 62 persons, an increase of level of activity was the only stated goal. We randomly selected 20 persons out of this group for observation, using momentary time sampling as a means to relate multisensory experiences to the level of alertness and interaction.

Results  The results of our study show that in general there is little evidence for an increase in activity levels as a result of MSE. There is, however, a relation between the level of activity and contextual variables. In particular, people with profound multiple disabilities have strong responses towards stimuli provided by members of staff (touching, talking to the person).

Conclusions  In general, the living unit is as good a place as the MSE for promoting alertness and interactions. The influence of materials on the level of activity is limited.


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  • Richard Prettyman
  • Multi-sensory therapy is an activity which usually takes place in a dedicated room where patients experience a range of unpatterned visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile stimuli ( Baker et al, 1997). These rooms are designed to create a feeling of comfort and safety, where the individual can relax, explore and enjoy the surroundings (Fig 1 .).


    Jason Staal, Psy.D. Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Beth Israel Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, NY NY, U.S.A.

    This paper examines the utilization of multi-sensory rooms as an adjunct to the care of older people with dementia. Their evolution into the field of dementia care is explored and analysed. The degree to which the aims of therapy can be realized is addressed in terms of process issues experienced whilst utilizing the therapy in practice. These are initiation of therapy, transfer of patients, selection of patients and resources. On the basis of these findings recommendations are offered, the focus of which is the active promotion of such therapy within the remit of trained nursing staff.

    Kevin Hope MA (Gerontology) BSc (Hons) Nursing Studies RGN RMN Cert Ed RNT*

    Article first published online: 28 JUN 2008

    DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2648.1997.1997025780.x

    If you want to read more, click here


    This paper reports on the findings of an initial evaluation of the effects of exposing older people with dementia to a multisensory environment. Data collected about 29 patients demonstrated that this was generally a positive experience in terms of response to equipment and effect on behaviour.

    Here you find a table of possible non pharmacologic interventions like Snoezelen you can use in respons to behavioral disturbances in dementia.

    The Effect of Snoezelen on Psychotropic Drug Use of
    Nursing Home Residents with Dementia


    Boyle, G. and Bell, J. and Pollock, C. (2003) The Effect of Snoezelen on Psychotropic Drug Use of Nursing Home Residents with Dementia, in 38th APS Annual Conference, pp. 29-34, Perth Western Australia, 2 - 5 October 2003. The Australian Psychological Society Ltd, Melbourne, Victoria Australia.


    At the Perley Rideau, Snoezelen Rooms
    Work Wonders for Residents with Dementia


    It's magic.

    The walls sparkle. The tulle-draped ceiling puffs and shimmers. There's soothing music in the background and a tranquil nature scene is projected onto a wall.


    Better Living Through Snoezelen at Beth Israel New York

    Though Snoezelen is, in fact, a new method for treating dementia'autism, say, or Alzheimer's it's a very gentle technique, with no pain and no side effects.

    Het verpleeghuis van Bernardus bestaat uit vier afdelingen met ieder een eigen specialisme: Mimosahof, Rozenhof, Irishof en Varenhof.

    Multi-Sensory Stimulation in 24-hour dementia care; Effects of snoezelen on residents and caregivers.

    Julia C.M. van Weert

    This study indicates that the implementation of snoezelen in 24-h daily care improves the quality of life of demented nursing home residents and the quality of working life of nurses in psychogeriatric care.

    With a Dutch Summary to download (inclusief een Nederlandstalige samenvatting)

    K E V I N W. H O P E University of Manchester

    H E AT H E R A . WAT E R M A N University of Manchester


    This article reports on selected outcomes from a four-year action research study exploring the use of a Multi-Sensory Environment (MSE) with older people with dementia. The literature around the use and utility of MSEs is summarized and a study exploring the clinical application of such an environment is described. Issues considered as having utility beyond the study environment are subsequently presented.

    This product is developed in the framework of the graduation project (MSc) of M.D. de Groot to complete her study Industrial Design Technology at the Delft University of Technology. During this project, which was carried out at the company Barry Emons Aangepast Spelmateriaal B.V. (Adapted Activity Materials Barry Emons) 'snoezel' material is developed for demented elderly men. 'Snoezelen' is a term used for stimulating the senses of demented people in such a way that they experience a state of rest and safety. Starting from this restful state of being, attempts to stimulate the mind will be more successful. By stimulating the brain dementia is controllable to some extent.

    The study involved enriching the sensed world of a small group of confused older people. A participatory nursing project, it specifically entailed working with management and staff to implement and evaluate two sensory rooms in a co-located dementia-specific unit. Over a one-year period, data were collected in relation to approximately eighty sensory enrichment sessions undertaken in these rooms with s eventeen residents who lived in the unit.

    NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Imagine for a moment what it would be like to suddenly be transported into a foreign world where almost nothing was comprehensible. The people you talked to and the language they spoke--everything an unending stream of incomprehensible, sometimes frightening, activity.

    Music is the voice of the human spirit. ... It expresses better than our mere words the passions and emotions that inexorably accompany human life. - John Frohnmayer, p. 26

    The original publication can also be found at:

    To help patients with dementia or Alzheimer's disease, St. Camillus Health Center has created a room that combines soft music, aromatherapy, textured objects and colored lighting designed to stimulate the senses.

    Lancioni G E, Cuvo A J, O'Reilly M F. Snoezelen: an overview of research with people with developmental disabilities and dementia. Disability and Rehabilitation, 2002;24(4):175-184.

    Imagine being in a room with colored lights dancing across the wall and ceiling, the sounds of the sea playing in the background and the smell of lavender in the air.

    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.


    Complementary therapies have become more commonly used over the last decade and have been applied to a range of health problems, including dementia.


    Snoezelen, multi-sensory stimulation, provides sensory stimuli to stimulate the primary senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell, through the use of lighting effects, tactile surfaces, meditative music and the odour of relaxing essential oils (Pinkney 1997). The clinical application of snoezelen has been extended from the field of learning disability to dementia care over the past decade.


    This protocol should be cited as: Vink AC, Bruinsma MS, Scholten R. Music therapy in the care of people with dementia (Protocol for a Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2004. Oxford: Update Software.