Somatic Revelations Ty Tedmon-Jones' blog devoted to information sharing, professional practices and diversity awareness & multiculturalism in the fields of Dance/Movement Therapy and Professional Counseling
The Dance to DTR Blair Cronin's blog on the wonders, trials, and tribulations of becoming a certified dance/movement therapist in California
I have just sent out this email to what is still a small networkof dance and dementia practitioners in the U.S. Please contact me if you would like to be part of this network.
Dear Dance and Dementia Practitioner,
This is the first email of a network which I envision as a resource for keeping each other up-to-date on the latest happenings, resources, articles, links and events related to dance and dementia within the U.S. that any of us find most useful. It is my hope that we will use this network to inspire one another, thus improving the quality of life for people living with a dementia. The network is quite small at present.
I would like to better understand the state of the art of dancing with people with dementia in the U.S., whether done by dance/movement therapists, dance educators, or dancers. I would like to know how many strong we are and what we are actually doing. Again, my hope is that as we begin to share our resources, that we can also share our dreams for better advocacy and our dreams for greater support, i.e. through workshops, training, conferences and research opportunities.
Since I began to work with older adults with neurological impairments in the early 1980's, I have come to believe that ALL older adults and especially those with dementia in care facilities, are best served by being offered the opportunity to dance and/or move expressively on a regular basis, preferably daily. I also believe that best practice for people with advanced dementia who can no longer use verbal language would involve at least 1 person on care staff who comes from an embodied perspective.
My model for this network comes from Dr. Richard Coaten who has both a UK and international networks. Here is his contact info: Dr Richard Coaten <email@example.com> .
What I need to know from you at this moment is:
Do you want your email addresses public to one another?
If not, do you know of another way, other than email, that we can create an interest group? LinkedIn would be one potential way.
Are you willing to send and receive emails directly from one another?
What do you need and want relative to your interest in dancing with people with dementia? What are you willing to share?
Thanks to all. May you have a most joyous July 4th celebration.
Best wishes, Donna
Donna Newman-Bluestein, MEd, BC-DMT, CMA, LMHC Dance/Movement Therapist Octaband LLC www.octaband.com Dance for Connection www.dancetherapymusings.com Senior Lecturer, Lesley University
Last Saturday at Dance for World Community in Cambridge, MA, intergenerational dance company Back Pocket Dancers premiered Octabandance, choreographed by Nancy Murphy.
Joan Green is the Artistic Director, Andy Taylor Blenis Rehearsal Director. Joan, Andy, Molly Hess, Jim Banta, Eleanor Duckworth, Dorothy Elizabeth Tucker and myself, Donna Newman-Bluestein danced.
The response was a standing ovation. Rosie Velasquez who, if I understood her correctly on Dance for Connection's Facebook page, is a dance/movement therapist in Mexico said: "Que precioso!!! Me han llegado al alma." which means, I believe, "That's beautiful! It touched my soul". Please like our Dance for Connection FB page and Octaband's FB page.
You will see links to more Back Pocket Dancer's youtube videos posted on Back Pocket Dancers FB page over the next few days and weeks. Like our FB pages and check back for updates.
The JF&CS Memory Café is a welcoming place for individuals and family members living with cognitive changes due to any dementia-causing disease. It's open to people at any stage of disease progression. The Café is intergenerational, with a large number of college students and other young volunteers. Guests are also welcome to bring kids.
The next Café will be held on Friday, July 11, as we explore other aspects of the visual arts. Guests Elena Clamen & Esther Friedman will share the art of collage. The Café will be open from 10:00 a.m. to noon. The location is JF&CS Headquarters, 1430 Main Street, Waltham. Guests can park in any of the spots surrounding our building. There is no charge. Donations gratefully accepted. Family member of all ages, including kids, are welcome. Those requiring personal care assistance must bring a care partner with them, as staff and volunteers are not able to provide this assistance.
Contact Beth Soltzberg at 781-693-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arts versus dementia is an article May 23, 2014 in the Bermuda Sun about WindReach and Action on Alzheimer’s and Dementia (AAD) who teamed up to help people with Alzheimer’s and dementia rediscover the joys of art and music.
"Chris Backeberg, education and recreation co-ordinator at WindReach said: “On a clinical level there is good research that indicates activities involving art, music, sound, movement, appropriate games and other connecting activities improves the health and wellbeing of people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“Participants in our groups are experiencing moments of fun and joy, connection with others and a sense of belonging."
In my own work as a dance/movement therapist with people with dementia, I had a very challenging group recently. Because of scheduling challenges, our usual space for group was occupied. When I arrived, people were already sitting in chairs that were roughly arranged in a circle with outcroppings, or scallops. I'm usually very particular about my circles being circles, or at least ovals. The result was fascinating. There was considerably more backbiting and cliquiness than usual. That led me to the discovery of writings by Marsha Frankel about elder bullying. Mean Girls in Assisted Living By Paula Span in The New Old Age, Caring and Coping was particularly helpful.
I always begin my groups focusing on creating love, but for my next group, I plan to begin talking about creating a culture of care together, and coming up with some ground rules. Of course, I'll have to figure out how to do that in a fun way, through songs and movement. If you've got any ideas for me, let me know.
Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life
- See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Second-Wind/Dr-Bill-Thomas/9781451667561#sthash.qOuDuDs8.dpu
Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, and More Connected Life
- See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Second-Wind/Dr-Bill-Thomas/9781451667561#sthash.qOuDuDs8.dp- not the same thing, but inspiring nonetheless.
Resources for arts and dementia abound. If only the research kept pace. Below are some resources I have recently discovered.
I just found this article in Harvard Magazine's Sept./Oct. 2013 issue of New England's Regional Magazine, Coping with Alzheimer’s from the perspective of a daughter of a brilliant woman affected by Alzheimer's, with quotations from Paul Raia of Habilitation Therapy and Dr. Muriel Gillick. Dr. Raia offers,
“One thing we know is that if those with Alzheimer’s spend significant time doing nothing,” Raia explains, “they will have more challenging symptoms and the illness will most likely progress more quickly."
Dr. Gillick was the geriatrician responsible for my father's care many years ago; a wise woman with a common sense approach to caring for frail elderly and people with dementia. She has a blog where she asks:
Riddle: What test is easy, fast, reproducible, cheap, can be done in any physician’s office and is a good predictor of mortality?
Answer: Gait speed.
... Detecting low gait speed should alert the clinician to think about possible causes: undiagnosed Parkinson’s disease, unrecognized heart failure, or other potentially treatable conditions. And monitoring gait speed may prove to be a good way to objectively assess the response to treatment.
But here's what's so surprising. Nobody measures gait speed."
Love, Loss & Laughter - Living with Dementia is a lovely video trying to change the way we think about people with dementia The video shows people with dementia living life, doing the things they can do."No one should live in shame because they have a medical diagnosis of dementia. It is unacceptable."
Cathy Greenblatt is helping to create "a society which acknowledges dementia as a condition, something that people live with, not something that should isolate them from every day activities that they have a right to enjoy." I believe that Cathy has photographed my friend and colleague dance/movement therapist Heather Hill dancing with people with dementia recently. Cathy says that she takes photographs of people around the world because "the things that work, work everywhere" - smiles, touch, hugging.
Sir Richard Eyre CBE on Arts 4 Dementia quotes a person with dementia who participated in an arts program, "I have dementia, but I also have a life." "You don't have to speak to express yourself." He urges us to train others "to relight the spark of imagination". Clearly, this is good not only for people with dementia, but for all people.
I believe that the arts: dance, music, art and drama can help make us healthy and happy - can make us feel good.
This is no flippant statement.
I am keen to find out what factors enhance psychological and physical wellbeing, and foster resilience, and what destroys these.
I believe that the way we relate to one another makes a huge difference, and this is evident in the way that we move together, and play together in our artistic and everyday life.
I see human interaction as dynamic, and shifting constantly like patterns in the sand. It is not the sea, and it is not the sand that create these patterns, but the dynamic interaction between the two. So it is in human relationships.
Through engaging in arts activities with one another we may experience magic moments. It is these tiny moments of meaningful experience, no matter how fleeting they may be, that hold the key to human health and wellbeing.
And my contribution, if you have not seen it about the importance of dance and embodied caregiving for people with dementia, my ADTA Talk On Moving and Being Moved.
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"Engaging in activities involving the arts can override the symptoms of dementia and the stigma of the word. They help to restore confidence and a sense of purpose and fulfillment.... Imagination and emotion are qualities that oddly remain undamaged for years after diagnosis of Alzheimer's." Sir Richard Eyre, director of the film Iris speaks on Arts 4 Dementia.
I have just discovered the beautiful dance/movement therapy and Reiki work of Natasha Goldstein with older adults and people with dementia in the Philadelphia area.
Jenna Weiss is also a dance/movement therapist, Director of Humanities with the Alzheimers Resource Center of Connecticut. "The Alzheimer's Resource Center has been involved in challenging the systems of what keeps us from truly connecting with each other- including those with dementia- as their mission."
The Alzheimer's Resource Center is a lead support sponsor for Bill Thomas's Second Wind Tour in Hartford for June. June 4 the tour will be in Boston.
If you missed it, here's my ADTA Talk about the importance of dance and embodied caregiving for people with dementia.
Please contact me if you would like a monthly newsletter and be part of a US network of people bringing creative arts therapies to people with dementia.
Ted Ehrhardt tells us that "[Dance/movement therapy] lifts the movement experience into the realm of the imagination where a patient can interpret for him/herself what the movement means" in his talk Dance/Movement Therapy & Mental Illness.
Many wonderful resources about the arts and dementia have come my way this week.
Here's a link to an article by Kate Jackson, Expressive Therapies for People With Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias, in January /February 2014 issue of Social Work Today. In it Kate interviewed myself along with 2 other dance/movement therapists and 2 art therapists.
"The primal response to certain forms of creative communication remains intact in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, even when memory, language, and cognition are impaired. Creative arts therapies help make the most of these abilities."
“Even when someone is not responsive to music, a dance/movement therapist can continue to reach that person through movement and nonverbal communication,” Newman-Bluestein says. “Dance in particular often taps into muscle memory and may even evoke reminiscences of joyous occasions in the past,” adds Andrea Koch, MA, ATR, LPC, manager of life enrichment and creative arts therapy at the Lieberman Center.
Creative Dementia Network operates in the UK. Their 3rd Creative Dementia Conference will be 8th April 2014 ! How I wish we would have such a conference here in the US - not a local one, but one that brings together arts therapists and those who bring the arts to folks with dementia throughout the country. The conversations we could have, things we could learn from one another!!!
Speaking of which, in Britain, there is a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship which provides the Fellow with the opportunity to travel to learn from what's happening in other cultures/countries pertinent to their work. Here is a report by Bisakha Sarker, the 2013 Fellow who shares what she learned by traveling through Canada about current practice in the field of dance and older people. She also created "Fleeting Moment", a dementiafriendly performance. This quotation from the report is particularly inspiring,
"As you said more than once, you cannot cure illness but you can use dance and the arts to draw people away from their suffering, give them a sense of connectedness rather than isolation and a feeling of mastery in situations where they are vulnerable and feel that they have lost control. You showed us how you raise awareness of dementia and make those with dementia participators in rather than observers of the arts. Particularly meaningful was your discussion of creating performances that are “dementia friendly” and welcome all who want to attend and take part". - Virginia Wesson, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
Dance/movement therapy friend and colleague Heidi Ehrenreich had a busy week in the media. I saw a video where she was sharing some props to use to exercise in groups with older adults. She'd intended to use the Octaband, but they shortened her time. I'm not sure why the link to the video is no longer working, but the segment was called Movement Therapy in Chairs! MyMassAppeal.com . There is also an article about Heidi who brings her wonderful work to children with autism and their families as well as older adults - across the lifespan.
People frequently ask me what props they should use, what music works best, what techniques in a group for people with dementia. Why are these questions so important to the group leader?
I believe the relationship the leader has to the participants is the most important element. It is love that is ultimately healing. This idea reduces the essence of the structure down to love. How do we convey love? Imagery is a great way to help us get from an idea to the manifestation of that idea. The themes, music, choice of props and structures are then all chosen in support of the idea.
In preparing for the last group before Christmas, I had to adapt my playlist to include reggae. That's because one of the group members is from Jamaica and he becomes significantly more lively when I play music from his culture of origin. How did I find that out? I try music from many different cultures and see who and which groups respond best to which music. I am paying attention to them, their preferences, their choices. When I discovered that he was not only from Jamaica but that he played steel drums - I don't know to what extent - I purchased a song on iTunes with a clear and upbeat steel drum music. Paying attention to them and their preferences, choices and concerns regarding group and attempting to give them what they need and want ~ this is how I express love and caring.
I generally play songs about love at the beginning and at the end. I always begin my groups, after initial handshakes, eye contact and committing their names to memory for the duration of the group, by opening my arms wide and asking them to do the same. I ask them to look around the circle at the people with whom we are dancing. These are our partners. At the end of the group, we again open our arms, taking in all the love of the group and this time wrap our arms around ourselves in a big hug. There are always more people who open their arms at the end of the group than at the beginning.
It takes a lot of nerve, courage really, to have so little structure. That means that beneath everything, the foundation I attempt to convey is my love.
Why are group leaders so concerned about music, props, and structure? In part because they need resources to support them in this difficult although highly rewarding work. In addition to those resources, the most important resource is a well-nourished Self. One way to nourish the self is to get ideas for music, props and structure. Another way is to read about this work. Here is my short list of best reads about bringing dance to people with dementia:
Tom Kitwood, Dementia Reconsidered
Heather Hill, Invitation to the Dance (and I hear she's coming out with a new one soon)
The Octaband™ is a fun, interactive tool which promotes individuality and group cohesion through movement for people of all ages and abilities. As a dance/movement therapist, Donna Newman-Bluestein was motivated to design the Octaband to stimulate movement in the elderly with dementia. The stretchy material, bright colors, and innovative design stimulate self-expression, spontaneity, and awareness of others. The center circle provides a strong visual focus, and the 5 1/2" hem at the end of each arm allows those with limited grasping ability to participate. Go to www.octaband.com to learn more.