Snoezelen Rooms and Sensory Environments for Dementia Care

Snoezelen Rooms and Sensory Environments for Dementia Care

Found In: Activities Articles Sensory Alzheimer's & Dementia

People living with dementia can benefit greatly from exposure to soothing and sensory environments.
This is one of many free activities.
Golden Carers has 1000s of activities and resources for senior care.

People living with dementia can feel increasingly isolated, frustrated and unhappy as they lose understanding of the world around them. Exposure to soothing sensory environments can provide much-needed relief.

What is a Sensory Room?

A sensory room allows people living with Alzheimer's or dementia to stimulate the five senses in a safe environment. The goal is to provide entertainment and stimulation that is free from cognitive demands. 'Snoezelen Rooms' were developed for this purpose in the 1970s and have become popular worldwide.

Sensory rooms often include things like:

  • Sight - coloured lights,
  • Sound - soothing music,
  • Smell - calming aromas,
  • Touch - interesting textures (bean bags, soft toys, etc)
  • Taste - textured foods (popcorn or jelly etc)
  • Movement - gentle movement (lava lamps, projected images etc)

Benefits of Sensory Rooms

Sensory rooms can offer a multitude of benefits for people living with dementia. This includes:

  • Heightened awareness of surroundings
  • Decreased agitation and wandering behaviour
  • Increased concentration
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Improved mood & well-being

10 Ways to Extend the Sensory Experience

Based on the notion that our world is a blend of smells, tastes, sound, and palpable experiences, why not endeavor to extend the sensory experience beyond the limits of a single room? See what can be done to enhance the whole environment and make it a place where sensory care is revealed in the walls, doors, garden, bathrooms and corridors.

An extended sensory environment could provide a variety of meaningful activities that calm and soothe residents, and assist in re-directing anger and other unwanted behaviors.

Here are a few suggestions to enhance the sensroy environment at your facility:

  1. Have a water fountain installed in the garden
  2. Grow scented flowers and bushes
  3. Have the walls and corridors painted with murals or bright colors
  4. Place fragrant pot-pourri in living area
  5. Play classical music in bathrooms
  6. Install a tropical aquarium
  7. Provide a rocking chair in the living area
  8. Adpot a pet
  9. Place dolls in common areas
  10. Provide colorful food choices in a variety of textures whenever possible

Do you have a sensory room at your facility? What has worked well for your clients & what differences in mood and behaviour have you noticed?

Save time with 1000's of meaningful
activity ideas for every occasion.

Enter your email address to collect your free activities.

✓ 100% Privacy ✓ No Spam

Comments   Post a Comment

Meagan 28th Feb 2018 Diversional Therapist
We have a closed dementia unit. In our sensory room I put fairy lights right along the top of the wall, using small 3g command hooks to string them along. Fairy Lights are coloured silver/white. Along the bottom of the wall I put in strobe lights, that can fade in and out different colours slowly. They come with a sticky backing, you can buy them at varying lengths, and cut them down to size. Also using fake type church candles that change different colours slowly. It is a very effective way to use colours but in a gentle way. We also have an atomizer in which I use Lavender essential oil, which lasts for 12 hours on low setting. Soft music. Soft furnishings. The items are not too pricey, I purchased the atomiser on special from Uncle Bills for $15, the lights all up was under $40 from Bunnings.
Sometimes we will have Pamper time in the sensory room also and families love to sit in the Sensory Room with their loved one.
Talita 3rd Mar 2018
This sounds lovely Meagan, thanks for sharing these ideas!
Angie 7th Nov 2018 Activities Coordinator
Love your ideas . Thank you so much for sharing
Pam 11th Jan 2018 Recreation
Hello All,
Excited to share ideas with AMAZING PEOPLE.....

Our facility is 150 residents

We have a Rehab unit -ground floor
1st & 2nd Floor is a mixture of general population and Dementia Residents (all levels) -so they are mixed in.
Finding with staff (or lack there of) it is a challenge to program and meet the needs of our Dementia Residents as to "transporting" etc....~ any suggestions as to programming ligistics would be very much appreciated.

Eileen 20th Jul 2017 Occupational Therapist
I am starting a Dementia program and will use part of a dining room. I want to separate what the Activity Director does and use therapy treatment in a program. I am an Occupational Therapist looking to demonstrate a program in 7 facilities. I am open for all suggestions.
Solange 25th Jul 2017 Diversional Therapist
Hi Eileen, I guess your Program will aim, among other things, on demonstrating modifications and adaptations of activities and daily living situations to suit clients’ needs. Here are some structural aspects your Program may cover:
• Activities simplification
• Advice on graded instructions for functional independence
• Body language tips
• Strategies for behaviour management
• Techniques for relaxation
I hope this is of some use to you. Best wishes with the program.
Karyl 26th Jul 2017 Program Mgr
I suggest you look into Johns Hopkins "New Ways for Better Days Tailoring Activity Program" It is an evidence based program which is designed for occupational therapists to develop activities based on the patients abilities.
Topsy 24th Jan 2017 Deversional Therapist
A bubble machine also works well...after all who doesn't love bubbles. Just be careful with the positioning of the machine
Jemma 20th Sep 2016 Home
Some fabulous ideas here. Any suggestions on how to get nursing home on board with a sensory room?
Talita 25th Sep 2016
Great question Jemma. There are also some threads regarding this on our Facebook Group page if you wanted to take a look or ask the group directly:

Solange 25th May 2015 Diversional Therapist
Hi Julie, lava lamps can be bought on this link:
They cost approximately $30 plus shipping; about $10 dollars. Gumtree and EBay sell them too. Beware of second-hand lamps; it is not recommended for aged care facilities.
Julie 25th May 2015 Diversional Therapist
Hi, we are looking to create a Sensory room & are having trouble finding out where to purchase lava (& similar) lamps. We are in the Gippsland region. Any suggestions would be welcome. :)
Susan 3rd Apr 2014 Lifestyle Cordinator
We have a Sensory Room
the sign on the door was made by a resident using colors and sparkles.
Be careful when selecting a resident for the room as not everyone likes the movement of lights particularly the ball hanging from the ceiling .
also it is best to gradually introduce one thing at a time so as not to confuse even more.
They are great though and hopefully we will use it more often once it is within main unit.
MARYANN 22nd Feb 2014 Diversional Therapist/Lifestyle Manager
Use a portable trolley as a Sensory Trolley too
Maurice 4th Feb 2014
Hi Wendy,

Great idea. I saw an amazing video a few years ago of the second largest aquarium in the world in Japan, there is a great 28 minute video on YouTube with soothing music:

If you have a large TV with internet access it might be a very nice event. The video is almost meditative.
Hi everyone,
I work in a dementia assessment unit and due to the clients BPSD's we cannot accommodate a real aquarium but I've found the next best thing; a looped DVD of an aquarium with the air bubble sound effects. It is very soothing and the patients thoroughly enjoy watching it...Some for hours
Noelene 27th Sep 2013 Lifestyle Assistant
Hi Shelly, The new Villa Maria home on Stud Road in Wantirna has a new Sensory room. Regards, Chris
Annette 23rd Aug 2013 Activity Officer
Hi Shelly, i worked in a facility as a nurse at the time the AO in dementia unit was very creative and she put together a sensory room. I didn't really know at the time why she did it, however now i'm an AO in a different facility and a student reading about this gives me more understanding. The room looked fabulous, but the nurses didn't really use it much, i believe that the nursing staff need to come on board with the changes AO impliments, and help with working together to make the change with the environment. I think a sensory room is useful and can help residents only if the nursing staff work it to.
Lorraine 14th Jul 2013 Recreational Activities Officer
This room sounds great, any idea's on what to substitute for the fragrant aromas for hayfever & asthma sufferers?
Shelly 14th Jun 2013 Respite Coordinator
Hi All - I would be glad if someone could advise me of an organisation that has an operational multi-sensory room or similar specifically for clients with Dementia?
Damien 23rd Jan 2013 Facility Servcies Manager
The main issue for our centre is our policy is with aromatherapy, where we require a cert 3 in order to conduct the therapy within the centre. Is there any alternative?
Solange 23rd Jan 2013 Diversional Therapist
Hi Damian, the Institute of Technology run various courses in natural therapy including Aromatherapy. The Certificate IV in Aromatherapy runs for 36 weeks full time or 74 weeks part time. I don't believe there is a Cert. III in Aromatherapy.
Solange 10th Oct 2012 Diversional Therapist
Thank you for the information Joanne. I didn't know the word 'Snoezlen' was copyrighted.
Joanne 10th Oct 2012 Leisure and Lifestyle Co ordinator
Just be aware not to use the word Snoezlen on your program as it's copyrighted. We used Sensory room...worked well, until the room was needed again for other reasons. You can get some of the items quite cheaply on ebay or in the two-dollar shops, battery operated too are better saves the need for power points; also hand held soft and unusual objects enhance the use of touch. Enjoy it as much as the resident.
Marilyn 9th Oct 2012 Carer
Clutter is my problem at home. The above suggestions are good ideas to replace the clutter with. Rotating new items would help us to keep the environment varied. I think I will soon be loving your website. Thank you so much. ♥
No Avatar