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:
... 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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