St. Barnabas Opens Multi-Sensory Room

Thursday, October 10, 2013

St. Barnabas announces the addition of a multi-sensory room to its program offerings.

St. Barnabas's multi-sensory room is state-funded by UnitedHealthcare Community and State Plan, and can be set to either relaxation mode or stimulation mode. The room can be staged to provide a multi-sensory experience or single sensory focus, simply by adapting the lighting, atmosphere, sounds, and textures to the specific needs of the individual at the time of use.  

Specific therapeutic outcomes aren't expected – instead, the focus is to help users gain the maximum pleasure possible from the multi-sensory activity, officials said. Because it does not rely on verbal communication, it may be beneficial for people with dementia and those who would otherwise be almost impossible to reach. Sensory stimulation can decrease behavioral issues arising from mental health and dementia diagnoses, according to researchers.        

"This modality is already being used with autistic children and the mentally ill," says Traci McKenzie, member advocate, East Tennessee, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan. "Research indicates the elderly also benefit, that sensory stimulation can de-escalate behavior issues, improves mental outlook, and decreases depression." 

For instance, aromatherapy improves appetite, says Ms. McKenzie, and is also indicated in the triggering of memories.

"We are pleased to be chosen to launch this important new program," said St. Barnabas President and CEO David Wildgen. "This concept aligns very well with our mission as a health care ministry." 

The CHOICES program, part of TennCare, requires managed-care organizations to participate in a quality of life project, and St. Barnabas was selected to pilot Tennessee's first multi-sensory room in a health care facility.

"I wanted to do something in a facility that would promote better quality of life for residents in our community," says Ms. McKenzie, who attended St. Barnabas's dedication of its new facility in 2007. "I feel non-profits like St. Barnabas don't always get the opportunities." 

St. Barnabas provides health care and rehabilitation therapy. For more information, visit

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