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Enhancing The Senses – Dementia Therapy

Dementia therapy often relies on stimulating the brain and the bodies senses to help lessen the negative impact can have on the brain and therefore skills such as memory and speech. Countries around the world are always developing new ways to combat the condition.

While the creation of many new therapies is always a good thing, many various techniques often go unheard of, or only known in specific countries and areas.

Snoezelen rooms

One type of therapy that has been around since the 1970’s is the Snoezelen rooms; specialised rooms made for those with conditions like dementia with the aim of stimulating the senses.

While founded in the Netherlands, the therapy has gained popularity around the world, especially in places such as Germany, and more recently, America.

“It’s been around since the 1970’s but recently it’s starting to become more popular in the states, said Cognitive Health Specialist Jeff Burkgren.

“I used to work in a facility that did a sensory room with intellectual disability but now working with Dementia it’s a different population so it’s a new concept especially in Iowa.”

The room stimulates the senses of users through a combination of lighting, sounds, colour and scents. Walls are also commonly made with a variety of materials that users are encouraged to touch and feel.

Unlike some other therapies, Snoezelen is predominantly controlled by the client and not the therapist, with a focus on the free will of the individual,  with the hopes of improving communication and general function.

While there have been very few official studies on the effects of Snoezelen rooms, participants often note a reduction in fear, aggressive behaviour and a general improvement in mood.

Therapy through art

Over in Hong Kong, art therapy is a common technique used to help those with conditions like dementia.

Helen Fong is a senior supervisor at the Wong Chuk Hang home and is one of the leading centres in the development of art therapy for its dementia suffering residents.

At the home, Mrs Fong holds classes encouraging residents to paint objects that they enjoy or are nostalgic about to arouse the senses.

“Say they are painting an orange. They may not realise it’s an orange. But after they smell it, touch it, paint it and then perhaps, eat it… they might,” she said.

Residents paintings are then hung around the home to allow stimulation to continue after the session, as well as a way to boost the resident’s self-esteem.

“Art enhances self-esteem and it gives them a sense of gratification and pride when they see their painting on the wall.”

Helen Fong taught herself how to watercolour paint from a young age. She wanted to use her skills to help those with dementia, and she has not only helped introduce the now popularly implemented art-scheme into many care homes in her town of Wong Chuk Hang.

She is now currently hoping to expand beyond her town and is currently creating a standard protocol art programme plan.

It comes as a much needed helping hand after experts last year said that a third of Hongkongers over 80 will develop dementia by 2050.

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