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
The New Mexican mountains are vast and beautiful, far beyond my capacity to capture adequately with my iPhone camera. Traveling in the Southwest desert reminds me of a summer many years ago when I was studying Creative Dance with Barbara Mettler in Tucson, AZ. It was my 2nd summer studying with Mettler, and she was not in a very good mood. The saving grace was hanging out with fellow students, spending free time with Norma Canner and Elizabeth McKim. The image of this native American woman below and her expansive gesture from this poster in the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque reminds me of a well-known image of Norma Canner in another poster, the cover of the dvd of Norma's life and work, A Time to Dance.
Spending the day in this part of the world, I am greatly inspired by the art of Georgia O"Keefe, some of the fabulous rugs by weavers such as Esther Silentman, pottery by Nampeyo, and Apache basketry in the shop called Native Jackets on the Square, and the photography of the Southwest and African safaris by R. David Marks.
Norma Canner loved the Southwest. Her clothing style was influenced by Native peoples. She loved dancing outside in nature and even more so in her later years.
In this photo you can just see my head peaking out to the left of Myron Sharaf, biographer of Wilhelm Reich in what is considered the definite biography, Fury On Earth.
On this, the last day of Creative Arts Theray week 2015, I feel so very blessed to have followed my path to becoming and practicing as a dance/movement therapist these past 36 years. The arts can be a way to allow the powerful energy received from communing with Mother Nature to flow through one.
By Ginny Mazur and Lance Chapman with Cindy Allard
When we walk onto Olmsted Place at Goddard House, despite the many challenges of memory loss, we find that the residents there are active, engaged and supportive of each other. These may not be the typical qualities that many of us associate with dementia. We’ve seen how much the ability levels of individuals with memory loss are impacted, when caregivers change their responses to them in supporting and empowering ways. But how do they do it? What is that certain something?
Lance Chapman and Ginny Mazur sat down with Cindy Allard, RT, BSN, Olmsted Program Director, to have her offer some deeper explanations of how this engaging and supportive environment gets created. We tapped into Cindy’s wisdom which comes from her 30 years of experience in this field. She offered us an overview of the many considerations that go into planning programs, hiring and training staff and developing this memory support environment which then allows Olmsted Place residents to act and feel more like themselves. Cindy passionately offered her explanations: “We follow the habilitation model of meeting our residents wherever they are in their minds and emotions. In this model every interaction is considered an activity, part of the program. Meaningful, purposeful programs that connect with emotions are the foundation of care and, they are the spice of life that proclaim, “Feel good, have fun and live in the moment!”
“I’ve been working with older adults for over 30 years after getting a degree in recreational therapy. Over the years, I’ve worked in the full continuum of geriatric and Alzheimer’s care. Several years ago, I returned to school for a BSN in nursing. At that juncture, I truly felt that the people with Alzheimer’s, with whom I was working, needed and deserved more. I earned my nursing degree to broaden and deepen my work so that I could fully understand the needs of the whole person (mind, body and emotions) and have that knowledge translate into the high quality of care and programming residents experience each day on Olmsted Place.”
“We need to form trusting emotional and physical connections with Olmsted residents. We do this by responding to their invitation for us to engage with them in their space and world. It’s important not to initiate, but instead to wait to enter their personal space with their permission. When we wait for them, we earn their trust. That trust helps us develop a flow to each day on Olmsted Place. From early morning until 8 p.m. we are guiding people to and from activities, responding to all that we know about the individual. Groups begin with invitations to participate, introductions and greetings. There is a transition phase as we begin each program which needs to be engaging and focused without too many distractions or too much stimuli. People are welcomed by name and referenced by what’s important to each individual. It’s essential to know everyone and take time for that process of reintroduction many times each day. From there, we can emphasize shared connections and relationships that engage and build community.”
“During each program or activity, residents are asked questions in a failure-free atmosphere and allowed to experience the success of that. This allows residents to regain confidence and self-esteem which so often is lost with dementia. Olmsted staff members are constantly assessing the right balance of stimulation to maximize group participation. Staff, then, remind each resident of how much they enjoyed a past similar experience to have them evoke those emotions again, which frames the personal, emotional context for participation and their connection to their life. This technique offers structure, comfort and familiarity but always with a flexible back-up plan. If the group conversation is going in a direction all are interested in, there’s no need to intervene even if it goes off on a tangent – treasure those moments of full engagement.” “At the end of each program we leave plenty of time for a recap of what has been covered and learned. This wrap-up phase also helps to wind-down and guide participants to the next activity so they do not feel idle, bored orlost. Anxiety, worry and pacing come out of boredom, out of not getting one’s needs for engagement met. When a person’s needs are addressed those behaviors occur far less frequently.”
“Finally, I believe this approach works so well because facilitating these real associations to experiences and preferences support each person being related to and having their needs fully considered. This differs for everyone. If I suggest to you, “Let’s go for tea”, and you’re a coffee drinker, we won’t connect. I’ve really got to know you. Caregivers need to evoke positive emotions that remain intact longer. It is essential for our staff to understand that the people who live on Olmsted are educated adults. Yes, they have memory loss, but in the moment, they can be who they always have been and experience having a continued purpose in life. We focus on what they can still do...on the person that is still there. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I heard from Magdalena Schamberger, Chief Executive & Artistic Director of Hearts & Minds of the new documentary style film called Hearts & Minds : Behind the Nose. You can see the film here. The film offers insight into the development of the characters of the clowns as well as the affect of this positive programming. At 18:28, begins the part about Elderflowers. Professor June Andrews, Director, Dementia Services Deveopment Centre, clarifies that what Hearts & Minds clowns do is not just entertain, but more importantly, finds out what's important to the residents.
Andrews also speaks of researchers often measuring the wrong things when trying to the assess the affects of a program on a person with dementia. Even though the person may not remember what they did, they have a sort of happy hangover. I love that description, as it certainly fits my experience. In fact, yesterday, sadly, I had an experience of contributing to a person's cross hangover. When I wasn't looking, a lovely woman had folded up my playlist and I could see the tiniest bit of it peaking out of her pocket. When I playfully asked if I might see what she had there, pointing to her pocket, she immediately became irritated and left the group. She came by after the group was over and although she didn't seem to remember me, she expressed feeling disgruntled and walked away muttering and calling me names. The experience left me curious if a different approach might have worked, or if my usual ignoring is the only best response.
On another UK front, unfortunately Inside Out of Mind, a play by Tanya Myers about the experience of dementia care will be playing in the UK after I am no longer there. The description looks very enticing:
Touching minds and hearts, nurses and patients search for love, rhyme and reason on ‘the ward with no name’. Dancing inside out and outside in, the play moves between multiple realities where time and identity drift apart.
Anything that helps us bridge the worlds between ourselves and those who perceive the world differently would certainly be helpful. And, of course, that would be anyone who isn't us.
One audience member in 2013 wrote: “Compelling performances from a strong cast powerfully invoke understanding of just how important it is to see people with dementia as individuals with rich life experiences. Everyone should see this deeply moving play”.
You can download the flyer here: Download IOOM Flyer If you see the play, please comment or write and let me know what you discovered. I'd love to let people know more.
Ginny Mazur, Community Partnership Director at Goddard House shared great wisdom about what she sees as the basis for hopeful in aging in this interview with Dr. John Zeisel.
"There were many highlights in what she had to say, in fact, she was radiant. She talked about the community walking program at Goddard House, where the residents walk in nature. Asked what it is about walking in nature that is healing, Ginny said, "There’s something intrinsically healing for all of us, not just a person with AD. . . . Something magical happens. The dementia falls away. It doesn’t matter who’s who.... another aspect of nature is that it is very leveling. We realize we’re part of a much greater sense of things. We’re a little blip on the screen. We simultaneously feel how small we are, and how connected we are."
The interiority of ourselves is a concept of Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomi's in his book, From Ageing to Sageing that Ginny shared in the Hopeful Aging interview, produced by Bedford TV.
This is an interview well worth the 30 minutes of watching. I look forward to watching Zeisel's interview of storyteller and healer, Alan O'Hare as well.
Thanks to friend, dancer, fellow Certified Laban Analyst, and Assistant Professor at Roger Williams University, Cathy Nicoli for sharing the link to this story, Rainy Days and Mondys on NPR's This American Life with Ira Glass. It only took me 7 weeks to finally sit and listen. I was delighted to hear Karen Stobbe's story of her attempts to apply improvisational skills to her life with Mother, with whom Karen, husband Mondy and 15 y.o. daughter were living with. Karen is a wonderful woman whom I've met over the past several years at the Pioneer Network conferences.
Karen's story reveals how much easier it is for her husband to apply improv skills to engage with her mother than for her. That is a story very familiar to me, and is why I think that providing a compassionate environment other than one's original home can be an appropriate alternative. As I listened to the story, I was reminded of the difficulty I had when my father's story conflicted with my internal sense of myself and my history. It was particulary difficult when I brought my father to my home for a family dinner the first time and he asked why I hadn't invited my mother. Didn't my dad know who I was, didn't he know that I would never fail to invite my mom if I could? That's why I needed to impress upon him the memory that my mother had died. Never mind the pain I caused him, I was protecting my sense of myself. It took me a few times of re-injuring him with this reminder before I realized that the compassionate thing to do was to join his reality.
Karen Stobbe calls this "Yes, and". She offers creative ideas on her website, In the Moment. It's the only moment there is for people with dementia. In fact, it's really the only moment that any of us have.
James Vanden Bosch created a resource list with wonderful suggestions for some of the best videos, documentaries, books, and websites I've seen and learned from. I think most of these would be on my list of what I think it most important to know when Caring with Persons Who Are Living with Dementia.
This looks like it will be a wonderful conference. Wish I could go, but maybe you could and let us know what you learned.
The Arts as Inspiration for Learning * Teaching * Making * Living
October 31-November 2 Barbara C. Harris Center in Greenfield, NH
Early-bird pricing in effect through September 15 Full conference, commuter & day rates are available. CEUs are offered. Graduate credit may be available from Plymouth State University. Contact Dr. Trish Lindberg for details.
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.