Monthly Archives: May 2016

Click for Poetry and Help Hundreds

My friend Molly has an exciting opportunity to expand the creative work she is doing with those who are living with dementia. She’s in the running for a small business grant from FedEx. Read this blog to learn more about the  meaningful projects she is doing. If you are as inspired as I am, simply click on the link and vote for Molly and Mind’s Eye Poetry: http://bit.ly/1TgpDuJ

Vote now so that she can continue her mission to engage, creatively stimulate, and empower people who are living with dementia.
***
Molly Middleton Meyer pulls a red silk scarf out of her rolling suitcase and asks the group of 15, “What does this scarf have to do with springtime?”

A brief silence unfolds while people consider.

“I used to wrap a scarf around my head in the convertible,” one woman says.scarf

The woman sitting next to her smiles. “Scarves blow in the wind,” she says.

Molly mimics the scarf wafting in a breeze.

“If the scarf was music, what kind of music would it be?” Molly asks.

“Jazz,” a man says.

“Rock and roll.”

“Classical.”

Molly, who has an MFA and is the creator of Mind’s Eye Poetry in Dallas, Texas, reaches into her suitcase and brings out a small watering can. She continues the relaxed pacing, asking for impressions, invoking imagination, creating a sense of comfort and connection for this group of people who live in a memory care facility.

After 20 minutes of creative play, Molly takes out a slim book and says, “Here’s a poem about spring that I really like. See what you think.”

She reads the short, rhyming verse and asks for reactions. She then invites the group to contribute to a writing project.

“There are no wrong answers,” she assures them. “I’ll ask something and you’ll say the first thing that comes into your mind. For example, when I say ‘springtime’ what flowers do you think of? ”

tulips“Daffodil, tulip, roses…” the group offers.

Molly writes down each flower and reads it back to the group.

“We have our first line of poetry,” she tells them.

“Imagine where the flowers are, in a vase, in the garden?”

“What colors are they? What time of day is it?”

Every question invites imagination and word-by-word, the poem emerges. After they’ve created three short poems, Molly shows them a piece of art and asks, “What do you see?” She captures their observations and uses their words to create a poem.

Here’s an example of a poem segment created after looking at Oriental Poppies, Georgia O’Keefe’s painting of two large orange poppies.

I see two evening gowns
on a diagonal, flowing.

I see a Scottie dog
prancing in a field of orange.

blackbirdI see summertime in Santa Fe.
I see a black bird soaring into sunset.

 

“When I read back their words and say, ‘You all just wrote this,’ it’s very empowering,” Molly says.

For those at home who want to have a session of creative imagining, Molly has these suggestions:

Gather a few interesting objects, such as a recipe book, a nature photo, a pot holder, and one at a time, show them to your partner and ask, “Mom, what do you think about when you see this recipe book?” Give her plenty of time to respond and jot down her answers. If she asks, “Why are you writing?” tell her, “I value what you have to say.”

Soon, you’ll have a collection of words and phrases. You can take a photo of the object along with the poem it inspired and put them together in a book.  #recipe book

 

Molly Middleton Meyer is the founder of Dallas-based, Mind’s Eye Poetry. To date, she has facilitated over 600 poems written by people with dementia. Mind’s Eye Poetry has been featured in U.S. News and World Report, the Huffington Post, the Dallas Morning NewsAffect MagazineGrowing Bolder Magazine, and on NPR. When Middleton Meyer is not facilitating poetry, she writes her own. Her first book of poetry, Echo of Bones was published in 2014.  For more information, contact Molly Middleton Meyer, M.F.A. Poetry Facilitator/Speaker at www.mindseyepoetry.com

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

COMING SOON: CONNECTING IN THE LAND OF DEMENTIA: CREATIVE ACTIVITIES TO EXPLORE TOGETHER

Leave a comment

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

A Toolkit for Art Activities

images“We’re going to talk about birds today and the beautiful sounds and colors they bring to our lives,” Dalia Gottlieb-Tanaka, PhD tells her client Sylvia, who was an art teacher before she was diagnosed with dementia. Dalia, the founder of the Society for the Arts in Dementia Care in British Columbia, hopes to reconnect Sylvia with her love of birds and invite out her creative abilities through discussion and painting.

“When people living with dementia have purposeful activity while interacting with others, they’re less depressed,” Dalia says. “They find more satisfaction in life. Those who’ve been indifferent and bored suddenly show desires and interests.”

Dalia conceived and developed the Creative Expression Activities Program for people living with dementia. The comprehensive program is based on the individual and includes nurturing body/soul and mind aspirations, improving the physical environment, and training family members and caregivers in their daily interactions. The program emphasizes the importance of activities that encourage creative expressions. As a result, it has the potential to reduce anxiety and stress to both client and care partner and increase the quality of life for both.

Creating a Multi-Sensory Experience

images-1First, Dalia creates an environment rich in visual and sound affects, such as pictures of local and foreign birds, which are either from library books, magazines or calendars. She plays birdsong in the background and shows a short video on birds that was borrowed from a local library or downloaded from YouTube. Dalia orchestrates a discussion about the video, asking what Sylvia liked about it and what it made her think about. She asks open-ended questions, such as, “What do you like about birds? What are your favorites? What kind of bird would you like to be?” She spreads feathers on the table for tactile stimulation.

“Since people have different levels of cognitive and physical abilities, I try to engage as many senses as possible,” Dalia says. “That way, I increase the level of communication and involvement. For example, those who cannot hear well may still be able to smell and touch.”

After the conversation, Dalia passes out paper and invites Sylvia to paint or draw with her. They may start a picture in tandem with Dalia asking Sylvia which bird she’d like to draw.images-2

“Doing creative activities together enriches both individuals and the relationship,” Dalia says.

Creative Sparks

• Apply Dalia’s flexible approach to arts activities to any relevant topic that might interest you and your partner.

• Adapt the ideas to meet your partner’s attention span.

• Think of a subject the two of you would enjoy exploring. Have fun collecting photos, music, video clips, and art supplies. If preparation feels too hard, ask a friend to help, or use a simplified version of this activity.

• Introduce the project, mentioning ways you both can participate. Let your partner know, “This is just for fun. There’s no right or wrong way to do this.”

• At least ten minutes before you’re ready to end, let your partner know you’re winding down.

• Work as equals, side by side, encouraging and helping as needed.

• If desired, post your artworks and share with others.

###

For more information about Dalia and her work, visit www.cecd-society.org

Consider attending the CECD 7th International Conference, September 8-10, 2016, in Vernon, BC, Canada.

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

COMING SOON: CONNECTING IN THE LAND OF DEMENTIA: CREATIVE ACTIVITIES TO EXPLORE TOGETHER

4 Comments

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

Dementia Café: Connecting through Donuts and Baseball

 

12974403_970162106435672_8742248128542083731_n

I’ve always enjoyed gatherings of creative people, so I was excited when I learned that Mandy Shoemaker was orchestrating a Dementia Café in our area. The premise is simple and fun: a group of people living with dementia, their care partners, and friends get together in a public space for a facilitated time of conversation, sharing, and creativity.

Mandy’s café took place in Lamar’s, a locally esteemed donut shop with a quiet atmosphere and a spacious seating area.  Eight of us gathered around a table and Mandy opened the conversation by showing us a black and white photo of a baseball player laying on a field, next to a fence, apparently knocked out.

“Babe Ruth,” she told us. “He was running backwards to catch a ball and crashed into the barrier.”

We all nodded in sympathy, then began sharing baseball stories. Charlie had played in his youth and he and his wife Barb were ardent Royals fans. Courtney had played softball in high school. Fran, who grew up in the 1930’s in rural Mississippi, never had a chance to play sports but she liked hearing about the game.

“Did you ever listen to baseball on the radio?” Mandy asked her.

“In those days, not everyone had everything,” Fran said. “I don’t think we even had a radio.”

Barb remembered being on her grandparent’s farm, huddled around the radio, listening to the Yankee’s games.

“Have you ever heard the poem Casey at the Bat?” Mandy asked.

“I memorized it at school,” Charlie said.

119AC655-C2E7-4B6C-A043-39E96D861200We took turns reading the dramatic poem, discussing such vivid terms as “when the dust had lifted” and  “Casey lightly doffed his hat,” and one ball player was a “lulu” while another was “a cake.” The tension built and we chanted the last verse together. (Seek out this poem if you want to know what happened in Mudville that day: www.baseball-almanac.com/poetry/po_case.shtml )

We then created a group poem, each contributing an answer to “Baseball is…”

I left the café feeling exhilarated and connected. Baseball was a catalyst for a great conversation that included life in the 1930s, family origins, Memphis, Elvis, baseball cards, Abbott and Costello, poetry, women and sports, fathers, hard work, radio programs, and more.

“It is our goal to create a more dementia-friendly community,” Mandy says. “Part of that is creating safe places for people with dementia to come and be a part of a group, with no expectations.  The café invites people to just get out, be creative, and have fun.”

The KC Memory Café will meet on the second Tuesday of each month. To keep up to date, follow our facebook page at www.facebook.com/KCMemoryCafe

imgres

Create Your Own Cafe

You can also create your own café for two or more. Here are a few tips:

Select a public meeting place that serves refreshments and is reasonably quiet.

Let go of expectations and create a supportive atmosphere. You are here to express yourselves and connect.

Pick a broad topic that you are both interested in. Examples include seasons, sports, nature, games.

Start with a visual stimulation, such as a photo. Ask open-ended questions that invite imagination, such as “What do you see in this picture?” or “What do you think is going on?”

Allow the conversation to flow. The topic is a mere catalyst for ideas and communication.

Print out a familiar poem to read together. Enjoy the drama of reading aloud and invite comments on the poem.

For more about starting a café, visit

http://www.alzheimerscafe.com/public.html.alzheimersatoz.com/Welcome.html

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

COMING SOON: CONNECTING IN THE LAND OF DEMENTIA: CREATIVE ACTIVITIES TO EXPLORE TOGETHER

 

Leave a comment

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

Stamping out Alzheimer’s

For twelve years Lynda Everman was a silent caregiver. Her husband, Richard, was diagnosed with Mild Cognitive everman-1Impairment in 1997; in an effort to preserve his dignity, she told few people what they were going through.

“We were both introverts and private people,” Lynda says. “My husband and I were a team, taking care of each other, moving through a situation that was too painful to address in public.”

After she had to move her beloved husband into assisted living, she went on her first advocacy trip to her state capital, Nashville, where she began telling their story. Along with activist Kathy Siggins, Lynda campaigned for a semipostal stamp that could raise money for Alzheimer’s Disease research.

il_570xn-567731996_82cgThe proposed stamp is similar to the Breast Cancer semipostal: consumers pay a little extra for the stamp and the additional funds go to the NIH for medical research. The US Postal Service has raised more than 81 million dollars for breast cancer through sales of that stamp. Lynda and Kathy wanted the same opportunity for Alzheimer’s research.

Lynda has been a tireless advocate for fighting Alzheimer’s. On her advocacy site, Help Stamp OUT Alzheimer’s, she shares research and legislative updates, caregiving tips, the work of fellow advocates, and words of encouragement. She is a founding member of three national networks, all under the umbrella of USAgainstAlzheimer’s: ActivistsAgainstAlzheimer’s, ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s, and WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s and a Board Member of Beating Alzheimer’s By Embracing Science. Together they campaign for policy change and for increased funding for Alzheimer’s research.

Lynda has written to every member of Congress urging them to cosponsor the Semipostal and she and Kathy have made countless visits to members.

Lynda and Kathy visited more than 60 members of Congress, trying to persuade them to sponsor and approve the Alzheimer’s semipostal. Both the House and Senate have to give their “stamp” of approval before the Congressional Budget Office can consider the project.

The bill was introduced in the House as part of the Alzheimer’s Action Now initiative and has 63 cosponsors. Sen. Mikulski will reintroduce a companion bill in the Senate very soon. But if the bill doesn’t pass by the end of the year, it expires.

Here’s where you come in. The stamp requires no governmental funding or increase in taxes. It’s bi-partisan and bi-cameral. You can help RIGHT NOW by calling your congresspersons and asking them to cosponsor H.R. 3092.

“It is important to share your story and speak out for those who cannot,” Lynda says. “ Please help them and their caregivers—and help us make this fundraising stamp a reality.”

m-mead-quote

Ask that the Postmaster General use her authority to issue an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Semipostal independent of the legislative process. Simply go to: : https://www.uspsoig.gov/blog/putting-stamp-good-causes

To call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard, dial 202-224-3121 and ask to be put through to the offices of your two Senators and Representative. If you don’t know the names of your representatives, you can get that information, as well as the direct line to their offices, by visiting: http://www.contactingthecongress.org.

For more about Lynda’s work, please visit:

www.clergyagainstalzheimers.org and http://alzbabes.org/

In addition to founding ClergyAgainstAlzheimer’s, Lynda served as a editor for “Seasons of Caring: Meditations for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers” and their recently released Leaders Guide for support groups. She has a blog post on UsA2: http://www.usagainstalzheimers.org/blog/its-time-alzheimers-stamp

For more about the semi postal, please visit http://www.alzjourney.com/2014/02/15/help-stamp-out-alzheimers/

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

COMING SOON: CONNECTING IN THE LAND OF DEMENTIA: CREATIVE ACTIVITIES TO EXPLORE TOGETHER

1 Comment

Filed under Advocacy, Care Partnering, Caregiving, Communication

Take a New Look at the Yellow Crayon

As we near Mother’s Day, I naturally think about my mom and all the different experiences we shared. This is an excerpt from my newest book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together. This book features stellar ideas from more than 60 experts in creativity and dementia. Though this is a story about the dementia journey, it’s also a story about something we all want: love and acceptance.

Take a New Look at the Yellow Crayon

Before he leaves for his outing, my father beckons me out onto the ramshackle porch of the rental cottage. He solemnlyimages-1 hands me a tablet of thick white artist’s paper and a pristine box of 24 crayons.

“I want you to get your mother interested in art again,” he says. “I believe she can still draw and paint, but she resists when I mention it. You’re the only one who can help her.”

My parents, my brother’s family, and my two daughters and I are on a family trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Mom has been struggling with forgetfulness and odd behaviors for a couple of years now. As long as Mom is near Dad, she seems happy enough. But when Dad takes even a short break, Mom’s mouth tightens and her eyes search wildly. “Where is …?” she asks, over and again, twisting her hands.

Today, my father is joining my brother and the children for boating and tubing. Since Mom doesn’t like such heat and noise, I volunteer to spend the day with her.

I nod gravely when my father hands me the “art supplies.” I seriously believe I, Super Daughter and Muse, can fulfill my father’s request to reunite my mother and her passion for art.

I haven’t yet accepted Mom for who she is now. I’m still grieving the loss of the mom I’ve always known and I earnestly believe that the best possible idea is to return her to the artist, mother, wife, and grandmother she used to be.

That afternoon, shortly after Dad leaves, I lure Mom to the small Formica kitchen table with coffee and chocolate chip cookies. I hand her a sheet of paper and take one for myself.2014-24 Ultra-Clean Washable Crayons, ColorMAX05 I spread the crayons out and say,

“Let’s draw.”

“Why?” she says.

“Because it’s fun,” I say, touching her hand and looking into her eyes, just as I imagine a muse might do. “Because you enjoy making art. You’re good at it.”

 

I hand Mom a yellow crayon imgresand I pick up a purple. I envision Dad’s beaming face when Mom hands him her sketch of yellow roses. I imagine his warm hug and his grateful, whispered words, “Thanks, Debbie. I knew you could do it. I feel like your mother’s come home.”

My wild colorful lines fill the page. Finally, I glance up, ready to admire Mom’s work. But all I see is a blinding sheet of yellow. She has scrubbed the yellow crayon across the page. No flowers, no independent lines, no blending of colors. I bite my lip, tasting bitter failure, and imagining the look of despair on my father’s face.

images-2

That was before I had learned to let go of Mom as a representational artist and embrace her mellow yellow creation. That was before I accepted the challenge of journeying to my mom’s current world instead of struggling unsuccessfully to drag her back into mine. I finally did let go and embraced my mom as she was. Mom learned to laugh at her forgetfulness; she learned to communicate with smiles and gestures; she learned the art of living in the moment. And I learned along with her.  END HERE?

Today, if I could once again sit beside her coloring, I would simply enjoy the process and not set myself up as a failed Super Muse. I might just say, “I love the brightness of that color,” and not yearn for a bouquet of roses. I might see if she and I could draw something together. Whatever we did, I would cherish that shared time.

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

COMING SOON: CONNECTING IN THE LAND OF DEMENTIA: CREATIVE ACTIVITIES TO EXPLORE TOGETHER

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized