Alzheimer's therapy has positive results

November 28, 2000|By ANDREA ROWLAND

Alzheimer's therapy has positive results

An innovative therapy method has produced positive results for Alzheimer's disease patients at an assisted living center in Hagerstown.

The Snoezelen concept, which promotes relaxation and prompts memory recall through the use of sensory stimulants, has consistently helped calm confused and agitated residents in Ravenwood Lutheran Village's Assisted Living center since the Snoezelen room was established there in March 1999, Activities Director Mary Chaney said.

Snoezelen is a contraction of the Dutch words for sniffing and dozing.

The method uses combinations of music, lighting and aromatherapy to create a peaceful atmosphere, Chaney said.

Ravenwood's small, white-walled Snoezelen room has a lava lamp, wave machine, fiber optic light tubes and a bubbling water unit to provide gentle visual stimulation for patients.

An aroma diffuser fills the room with scents such as lavender and sandalwood, herbs that are touted as natural remedies for everything from anxiety to insomnia.


Meditative music relaxes and helps patients remember better times, Chaney said.

She and the Alzheimer's unit's five staff members try to use the Snoezelen room as much as possible to draw dementia patients' attention away from whatever is agitating them.

"It's good to know your residents," Chaney said. "I try to tailor the room experience to what I know they like."

If Chaney knows a resident liked the beach, she might invite them into the room to remember those happier times. Ocean music, the wave machine, a bucket of sand and seashells, the warmth of the light tubes and the therapist's soothing voice can prompt such memories, Chaney said.

The smell of cinnamon soothes some residents by prompting reminiscences of baking, she said. The soft feel of stuffed animals calms other patients.

Bird music helps the Alzheimer's patients greet each new day, and cricket sounds help them get ready for bed each night, Chaney said.

It usually takes about 10 minutes of Snoezelen therapy to calm an upset patient, and Chaney said she has never brought a patient out of the room "not feeling good."

"You can really see that it has helped," she said.

Changes noted in Alzheimer's patients' behavior logs support the benefits of Snoezelen therapy, and residents' family members have also noticed the positive effect that the room has on their loved ones, Chaney said.

"I think it's really beneficial to anyone who cares for residents this age. I think it's especially wonderful for residents in the dementia unit," she said.

Garret A. Falcone, executive director at Ravenwood and the new Village at Robinwood Retirement and Assisted Living Community, introduced the Snoezelen concept to Chaney and Ravenwood Director Debra Anthony.

Falcone learned about the method in the early 1990s while working at a long-term care facility in Baltimore, he said.

Occupational therapy staff members attended a conference in Europe, where the Snoezelen concept was introduced with success into Alzheimer's units after being used for years to treat mentally disturbed children, Falcone said.

The Baltimore center established a Snoezelen room in 1993, and Falcone carried the idea with him when he took the helm at Ravenwood five years later, he said.

Chaney and Anthony traveled to Baltimore to see the Snoezelen room there, and then "Mary went to town with it and we had the room up and going in a couple weeks," Anthony said.

A Snoezelen room has also been established at The Village at Robinwood, Falcone said.

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