Monthly Archives: April 2015

Creating a Real Hit: Building Community Through Drumming

Life is about rhythm. We vibrate; our hearts are pumping blood; we are a rhythm machine; that’s what we are.   – Mickey Hart

percussionSome might have thought it a hassle to be hauling such a large load of percussion instruments, but Renee Kessler didn’t mind. She was thinking of the sudden smile she’d see when her mother-in-law began rhythmically shaking the maracas. Or the joy she’d see in Mr. Norman’s eyes as he beat the drums. She was glad to see the circle of residents in the memory care unit waiting for her and relished offering them choices of bells, clappers, triangles, drums, tambourines, and rain sticks.

“Through our drumming circles, we give people choices, we inspire them and we wake them up. Their eyes brighten when we play music,” Renee says.

Renee has a long history of waking people up through engaging them in creative arts. She worked as a teacher for an esteemed arts school in West Palm Beach, Florida,  and now serves as a consultant, helping students prepare for arts programs. And she’s long been involved as a family care partner. When a drummer friend invited her to visit memory care units with him, she was eager to go; she’d been collecting instruments for years.

The experience was meaningful for all involved. Once they talked to each participant and distributed the instruments, the drummer set a beat and gradually everyone chimed in.

“We kept the flow of the energy and then we stopped and invited people to make random noise,” Renee says. “People were very expressive and eager to beat on drums, flap the clappers, and shake bells.”

Being part of rhythm and music energized and equalized everyone and built a sense of community, creativity, and connection.

drumsWant to create connection through percussion instruments?

  • Set the tone with a drumbeat or select a CD of familiar music with a definite beat.
  • Offer a choice of noisemakers. If needed, you can beat a pen on a book or put some beans in a jar to make an impromptu shaker.   Or you can hit two spoons together.
  • Encourage your loved one to make as much noise as possible. Do the same. There’s liberation in making noise and there’s a sense of connection sharing the same rhythm.

 Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Stepping into the Care Partner’s Journey: Creating the Path

jungle 1 It was 4:00 am and Carlos and Luis, our Ecuadorian guides, waited patiently by the dugout canoe.  It was a half-hour boat ride and an hour trek to the salt lick where the wild parakeets descended early every morning. Carlos had described the cacophony of sound and the brilliant flashes of yellow that blotted out the sky when the birds arrived and Ron and I were eager to be part of the experience. The morning was silent save for the paddles pushing through the still waters. When we reached the land, Carlos tied the canoe to a thorn tree and Luis helped us out of the boat. In the dim light, I headed toward what looked like the only opening into the brush. But Carlos stopped me.

“Deborah, you’re heading in the wrong direction,” he said. He held up his machete and pointed to a tangle of vines and trees off to the left. “This is our trail.” And he and Luis began creating a path through the jungle.

Recently, my friend Janet Sunderland shared this Joseph Campbell quote:  “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.”

So many times during my time with my mother, I was drawn to those bright openings, the beautiful array of well-worn steps. All too soon, I would be reminded by an inner or outer voice, “Deborah, you are heading in the wrong direction.” And I was guided back to the core of my care partnering journey, the intense creativity of the path-in-progress, step by step, creating a trail only I could make.

jungleDeborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

 

 

 

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Creative Splashes

Sometimes I am around many creative people and I soak up their energy and ideas. Other days, I work alone. On those solitary days, I use these quote to inspire and ignite my creative spirit.

creativity 1 “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut

“To be creative means to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty. You want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”    ― Osho

creativity 3“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”   ― Martha Graham

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”  — Alan Alda

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.creativity 2

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Three Great Reasons to Go Out for Art and Culture

Art shows that what people have in common is more urgent than what differentiates them.      – John Berger

Teri Miller, with the Alzheimer’s Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter, has witnessed the power of creativity and the arts. As the Early Stage Program Manager, Teri collaborates with Houston arts and civic organizations and encourages people living with dementia to attend the events, which have included viewing art, doing photography workshops, creating poetry, and spending time in nature.

calendar“Attending these activities offers people a sense of normalcy and gives them something to put on their calendars,” she says. “When they attend with friends or care partners, they have a shared experience to discuss and they also have ‘news’ to share with friends and visitors. Even people who say, ‘Oh, I don’t care for museums,’ usually have a great time.”

Sam is just one example. He grew up in a small Texas town and has been attending one of Teri’s early stage support groups. His wife, who cares for him at home, attends a care partner’s group.  When Teri formed a partnership with the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, she invited her early stage group to attend an arts tour with their care partners.

When Sam heard the invitation, he rolled his eyes and said, “I’ve never been to a museum and I’m not about to start up now.”

But the next week, Sam was there, signed up for the tour.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Teri told him. “What made you change your mind?”

“Well, my wife really wanted to go. She does so much for me and I figured I’d like to do something for her.”
Teri expected Sam to sit back silently, arms folded over his chest, when the docent asked, “What does this painting make you think of?  Has anyone ever been in a similar setting?”  To Teri’s surprise, Sam had opinions on each of the three pieces they discussed.

Sam’s wife smiled as Sam told Teri, “Originally, I didn’t want to go because I was worried I wouldn’t have anything meaningful to contribute.  But I guess you don’t have to know anything about art to enjoy the museum.”

Sam and his wife discussed the experience all the way home, adding a new topic to their usual conversations.  Discussing the art opened up chances to reminisce and connect. Plus the experience gave them something interesting to share with their grown children and visiting neighbors.

Like many art partnerships around the country, Teri was inspired by Meet Me, the MoMA’s  Alzheimer’s Project for people living with dementia. Houston benefitted from MoMA coming to train their docents. The program offers comprehensive guidelines for visiting a museum or viewing art at home.

http://www.moma.org/meetme/practice/index

For more about Houston’s art viewing program, visit

http://www.creativeaging.org/creative-aging-program/6523

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Filed under Care Partnering, Caregiving, Communication, Creativity, Inspiration, The Arts