Darla Spiry shows off their new Snoezelen machine at Columbia House. The machine is known for its healing effects. Photo by Erin Knutson

Snoezelen machine transforms lives at Columbia House

Health care workers demonstrate the benefits of calming machine on residents

There’s a transformative experience happening over at Columbia House and residents have the opportunity to experience sensory therapy through a new Snoezelen machine that was provided to the facility by the Invermere Health Care Auxiliary.

Health care facilitators Darla Spiry (student of Recreation Therapy Gerontology), Catrien De Ruyter (Masters in Physiotherapy), and Catherine Kannan (Masters in Occupational Therapy) from Columbia House met up with the Pioneer in their new Snoezelen multi-sensory room for a demonstration of how it all works.

The machine was made possible through the fundraising efforts of the Health Care Auxiliary Society (HCAS) and its hugely successful thrift store. Over $190,000 has been donated to health care facilities on behalf of the organization over the past year. When a request was made to the organization by Columbia House to provide the cutting edge therapy technology they were happy to accommodate.

“They wanted it and we paid for it…it’s important and it means everything to provide new things…I’ve seen hospitals with no auxiliary to help and they have old stuff, so it warms my heart to contribute,” said HCAS President Wendy Ede.

The machine originated in Holland, according to Ms. De Ruyter who is of Dutch background, and it has made its way to over 46 countries since its creation in the late 1970s at the DeHartenburg Institute.

“Snoezelen resulted from the combination of Dutch verbs “snuffelen” (to seek and explore) and “doezelen” (to relax),” said Ms. De Ruyter of how the machine got its name.

The Snoezelen Machine is currently being used in schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities, dementia care units, mental health facilities, prisons, churches, community centres, community pools, rehabilitation facilities and in many households to help enhance the well-being of people on many levels and for a variety of reasons.

“Snoezelen can aid in learning and development and to help relax an agitated person or to stimulate and raise alertness levels of someone who has sensory processing disorders,” said Ms. Spiry. “We have used it on someone with anxiety and it worked really well.”

Ms. Spiry and Columbia House staff have been training to use the machine in resident care and one thing that translates is the transformative experience for the user.

The Snoezelen environment is calming and stimulating as it engages the senses through a variety of methods that include sight, sound, touch, and smell to create an experience that helps orient the body and refocus the mind.

The machine is reminiscent of a giant lava lamp with bubbles moving up and down and cables that the user can hold and interact with while reclining in a luxurious chair under a weighted blanket. The feeling is grounding, meditative and relaxing, with a temporary shift in sensory perception that leaves the user in a state of calm and relaxation.

“The machine adjusts to the needs of the body as the person interacts with it,” said Ms. Kannan of the individualized response it has on each user. Effects on the residents at Columbia House remain to be seen but the therapy has a strong reputation for improving the quality of life for its users and that is a promising prospect for those who will benefit from its presence at the facility.

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