Snoezelen® is a therapeutic approach that uses multisensory experiences.
It was developed in the Netherlands in the 1970s for people with developmental disabilities. Since then, it has also been used for different patient populations in countries such as England, Germany and, more recently, in the United States and Canada.
The term "snoezelen" was coined by fusing two Dutch words: "doezelen" (dozing) and "snueffelen" (sniffing or smelling)—the combination of relaxation and sensory stimulation in this approach.
A sensory cocktail
In a Snoezelen® room, the person is exposed to different sensory experiences in a safe and comfortable atmosphere. Music plays softly. There are captivating, colourful displays, and orbiting images to be enjoyed. Objects with different textures call out to be touched and explored. The room is filled with soothing fragrances. A rocking chair invites the person to sit down and relax. Vibrating pillows can dispense a gentle massage to enhance the sensory cocktail.
Building a climate of mutual trust
People with dementia are easily over stimulated by impressions they cannot interpret, increasing anxiety as a consequence, or they may suffer from sensory deprivation leading to behaviours associated with dementia. In the Snoezelen® room, their subjective well-being can be enhanced and their curiosity and attention activated by multisensory stimulation: stimulation that is selected according to the preferences of the individual.
In a failure-free atmosphere there are no demands on higher intellectual functions. Communication between the patient and caregiver is encouraged, and their shared experience helps build mutual trust. Caregivers can act as facilitators, or may present choices. Retained abilities are emphasized, making it possible to validate the individual's experience.
At present, not many well-controlled research studies have been carried out to study the impact of this multisensory approach with dementia. Results thus far indicate immediate improvements in mood, reduced restlessness and reduced apathy. There is also some indication that Snoezelen® therapy may lead to improvements in behaviour, speech, and memory, in patients with dementia. Further research is required to expand the knowledge base concerning the effects of this multisensory stimulation approach.