Therapeutic multi-sensory environments (such as Snoezelen rooms) are soothing and stimulating environments specially designed to deliver stimuli to various senses, using lighting effects, color, sounds, music, scents, etc. The combination of different materials on a wall may be explored using tactile senses, and the floor may be adjusted to stimulate the sense of balance.
The benefits of using such environments to help engage people with Alzheimer's and dementia have been known for some time. Many memory care facilities have Snoezelen rooms installed, but they are often left unused. According to Dr. Jakob of Kingston University in London the reasons include the rooms not being set up in a comfortable way, staff not understanding the benefits and care workers not being trained on the proper use.
Dr. Collier of the University of Southampton found that if a sensory environment was adapted to individual needs, improvement in performance, mood and behavior could be achieved.
I worked at a long term care facility with a Snoezelen room and experienced first hand exactly what Jakob and Collier found. The Snoezelen room was unused (except for storage!) and the dementia care nurses didn't have any knowledge about its use or benefits. I did some research about how to properly use the room and took it upon myself to put it back in use. Over the course of the next two or three years I used the Snoezelen room with many of the residents with excellent results. People with dementia who would not respond normally could be actively engaged in the Snoezelen room. It really did make a difference.
Jakob and Collier have collaborated and just released a new guide discussing best practices when implementing and using multi-sensory environments such as Snoezelen rooms. The guide discusses the challenges of developing a sensory program in long term care facilities, complete with do's and don'ts illustrated and explained.
This is an excellent guide for facilities with such tools available or for those considering implementing one - I highly recommend reading this free guide. Here's the link to the guide...