A resident at Heritage Place enjoys colored strands of light during an open house of the home’s Snoezelen room on Friday, March 23 in Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

A resident at Heritage Place enjoys colored strands of light during an open house of the home’s Snoezelen room on Friday, March 23 in Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Getting the full Snoezelen experience: Heritage Place opens relaxation room

A local nursing home is giving its residents a little “me time.”

Central Peninsula Hospital’s Heritage Place recently launched a Snoezelen room, which allows residents to relax in a communal setting surrounded by calming sights and sounds.

Based on a concept developed by Dutch therapists, the room incorporates a variety of interactive items — including a laser projection of images and video, aroma therapy, multicolored lighting, a disco ball, bundles of colorful glowing light strands, a bubble tube and audio tracks — to create a relaxing atmosphere and stimulate cognitive functions.

Ruthann Truesdell, staff training coordinator, came across the multi-sensory “Snoezelen” concept while researching the best ways to use the projector donated by the State of Alaska. The residence put together a committee to discuss what aspects of the concept they wanted to adopt and to find interactive tools that would meet the needs of the home’s residents, Truesdell said.

The project has been completed in stages, with the final product unveiled at an open house on Friday, March 23.

Providing care with dignity

The Snoezelen project is one manifestation of Heritage Place’s “dignity mission” — a philosophy that focuses on providing care and purpose to people at all stages of their life.

“As many people age, they become vulnerable and get into a place where their circumstance aren’t what they were, and they have to detach form everything they knew before. So it’s really important that we give them a purpose and we give them a place to heal,” Aud Walaszek, Heritage Place activities coordinator, said.

The project was a joint effort between residents and staff, with residents working to raise the funds to purchase some of the project’s equipment. They created items for silent auction baskets for local charities, including homemade dog treats baked during cooking classes. They also sold crafts at garage sales and attended the hospital’s bazaar for the first time.

“It’s important that we wake up and have purpose. Every person needs that,” Walaszek said. “And that’s what we’re doing here. We’re celebrating life, no matter the phase of life that you’re in.”

A place created by and for residents

For Mary Nell Larson, resident president, the opening of the room carries special significance.

Larson was a member of the committee that helped shape the room from the beginning, and worked with fellow residents to raise the funds to make it happen.

“We put in a lot of hours making things, helping make things, setting up and selling at garage sales, at bazaars. Making our own things and selling them,” she said. “And it meant a lot of us and because we were earning our own money.”

Their efforts paid off.

During the March 23 open house, the effects of the room were on full display. In the softly lit room, one resident sat under a loose fabric canopy, holding a bundle of brightly colored tube lights. Another watched a projection of sea turtle swimming through ocean waves. Others drifted off as gentle music plays in the background and puffs of scented air were released from an aromatherapy device.

Larson said she the first time she took a break in the room she drifted off almost immediately. She woke up 15 minutes later feeling refreshed, with no sign of a neck ache that had been plaguing her earlier that day. Now she drops by the room whenever she feels tired or tense.

“I’ve stood at the door and just watched, and found that If I don’t get out of here I’m going to fall right on the floor,” she said. “It’s wonderful.”

Larson said she’s looking forward to enjoying the environment with others residents who worked to make the room a reality. 

So we can talk amongst ourselves about ‘look how good we did, and look where all our work went,’” she said. “I know that’s going to mean a lot to 99.9 percent of them.”

Ruthann Truesdell, Heritage Place staff training coordinator, discusses an interface that residents can use to change the lighting in the home’s new Snoezelen room, which provides an interactive relaxation experience for residents, on March 23 in Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Ruthann Truesdell, Heritage Place staff training coordinator, discusses an interface that residents can use to change the lighting in the home’s new Snoezelen room, which provides an interactive relaxation experience for residents, on March 23 in Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Aud Walaszek, Heritage Place activities coordinator, shows off some of the homemade dog treats baked by residents to fund the purchase of equipment for the Snoezelen room, on March 23 in Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

Aud Walaszek, Heritage Place activities coordinator, shows off some of the homemade dog treats baked by residents to fund the purchase of equipment for the Snoezelen room, on March 23 in Soldotna. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)

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