When people begin to lose their cognitive abilities, it is painful for them to experience and for their caregivers to watch. Dementia frequently fosters isolation, loneliness and depression. People feel helpless.
I'm passionate about the ability dance has to restore the person's connection to their sense of self, to hope and to remain engaged in life.
What do you think of when you hear the word dance?
Dance means so many things to so many people. Some people think of social dance, others think performance. Even Google's definition doesn't get it quite right: "Move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps". Dance is not always done to music and it may be improvisational. So what is the dance of dance therapy with people who have dementia? I use the broadest definition, including social dance, folk dance, performance art, and most importantly, the dance of interaction. That is the nonverbal communication between two or more people (and/or animals, but we'll leave that for later).
Today's (August 05, 2013) Boston Globe Health & Wellness section provides a glimpse at dance/movement therapy with people with dementia in Karen Campbell's article, Engaging patients through dance, movement.
"When a person sees their movement mirrored, they feel like they're having an impact. . . . The emotional component is central. The relationship is what's healing, and dance is the language, the medium that allows for the relationship."
Dance plays to the strengths of people with dementia. Due to cognitive impairments, they often lose their censors, so they're willing to play. They also often can't initiate, but they can be spontaneous. If movement is offered to them with sensitivity to, respect for, and honoring of their personal choices, in response to music, props and relationship, persons with dementia engage, are playful, and help co-create something new. Together, we all get to contribute to the greater good.
As a result of which, people feel empowered and their sense of isolation is dispelled.
Dance can help people with dementia maintain and even improve their physical experience and social engagement in life.
Additional benefits of dance/movement therapy with older adults and people with dementia, including those in advanced stages:
- social connection
- alleviation of anxiety, loneliness, and isolation
- range of movement
- body awareness