A pilot study of the physiological and behavioural effects of snoezelen in dementia

Recent interest in the use of Snoezelen as an intervention for agitated behaviour in patients with dementia remains supported by limited evidence of efficacy. This pilot study aimed to develop an approach for assessing the effects of Snoezelen on agitated behaviour in patients with dementia and its comparability with an existing control intervention. Ten patients with dementia were randomised to receive a 4-week course of either Snoezelen or reminiscence therapy. The therapeutic effects were assessed using the Agitation Behaviour Mapping Instrument (ABMI) and the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI) and by heart rate recording. Differences in dementia severity between the two groups hindered direct comparison of outcomes. Both interventions were well tolerated and the majority of both Snoezelen and reminiscence sessions were rated positively. The ABMI ratings suggested that Snoezelen might have reduced agitated behaviour during and immediately after the session but that this effect was short-lived. The CMAI scores indicated reduced agitated behaviour during the intervention period. Heart rate data showed both decreases and increases during the sessions for different participants. With minor modifications, the measures used will be appropriate for a full-scale comparative trial. Both interventions may have helpful short-term effects and while for some patients the sessions are primarily relaxing, for others they may have a more stimulating effect.

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