Special Room Rouses Alzheimer's Patients
Special Room Rouses Alzheimer's Patients
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
February 19, 2004
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News - February 19,
2004 STAMFORD, Conn.
-- To help patients with dementia or
Alzheimers disease, St. Camillus Health Center
has created a room that combines soft music, aromatherapy,
textured objects and colored lighting designed to
stimulate the senses.
Jane Carlo, recreation director at the Elm Street
facility, introduced eight patients to the idea after
seeing such a room, called Snoezelen, at the Masonic
Health Care Center in Wallingford.
Snoezelen originated in the Netherlands in the early
1980s to help mentally retarded children and adults,
according to Flaghouse, a Snoezelen distributor based
in New Jersey.
Medical professionals thought patients lacked stimulation
and sought methods for eliciting responses through
their senses of touch, hearing, sight, smell and taste.
About 100 Snoezelen rooms have been built in the United
States and more than 2,000 are in Europe, most designed
for children with learning disabilities.
At St. Camillus, patients use the room for 10 minutes
three times a week, Carlo said. Most patients became
relaxed, though others had no reaction or became agitated.
"You never know what response you will get, but
that is not our concern," Carlo said. "Our
goal is to document their response and see what works
and what doesnt work for the patient to help
stimulate their senses."
Joan Camurati, a resident at St. Camillus since 2001,
no longer speaks, is often agitated and blurts out
sounds. She stares blankly, unaware of her surroundings
and jumps when she is touched.
After spending 10 minutes in the Snoezelen room recently,
Camurati appeared calm and reacted to lights and objects
by staring at each one, Carlo said.
"See how calm she is now, and attentive she is
to the objects," she said. "These are the
results we are looking for."
Carlo used a colored bubble machine, similar to a
lava lamp, to try to provoke visual and auditory senses.
An aroma diffuser filled the air with lavender, a
medically proven relaxation scent. Patients also listened
to soothing music while a projector showed colored
images of water. A spotlight and mirror ball twirled
around the room, casting colored shadows.
Carlo adjusted each object based on Camuratis
response. When she entered the room, Camurati was
agitated, but she quickly calmed down. When she later
became agitated again, Carlo removed the projected
image and Camurati was calm.
"Its not going to be 100 percent successful,
but if we can help one person, we consider that success,"
said John Halleran, St. Camillus administrator.
Health professionals from Masonic Health Care Center
shared information about how the room works during
a recent conference at the Alzheimers Resource
Center in Plantsville.
Sharon Louchen, director of recreation at Masonic,
said the practice is based on trial and error.
"You have to go into the room and try new things.
What works today might not work tomorrow," Louchen
said. "For so many of our dementia patients,
Snoezelen gives them peace. If they are agitated,
it calms them down. If they are hearing impaired,
it gives them some tactical stimulation. If they are
visually impaired, it gives them visual stimulation."
She said her goal is to collect data to determine
whether Snoezelen may be used as an alternative to
"If they have peace for 15 minutes while they
are in the Snoezelen room, it could be possible to
take them off their medications or reduce medications,"
she said. "But more study is needed to determine
if that is possible."
Veronica Bolcik, vice president of merchandise for
Flaghouse, said Snoezelen is used in nursing homes,
hospice care, independent living facilities and schools.
"It is such a basic concept," Bolcik said.
"By controlling the environment, whether it is
sound, sight, smell or touch, it is the basic stimuli
that comes into the body and it has an extremely powerful
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