Category Archives: Communication

The Best Rx: Smiles

img_3262-2I’ve met a lot of doctors whom I admire, due to their intelligence, listening skills, willingness to collaborate, and their ability to have the occasional hearty laugh. Recently Veronica Kaninska, Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, introduced me to a Doc I instantly fell in love with.

I went on rounds with Veronica and Dr. Moody, who often works with people who are living with dementia. I was so impressed with his knowledge of each individual and the warm way he offered his services. His first patient lit up when he and Veronica strolled toward her.

“How are you today?” he asked in a friendly avuncular voice. “Dr. Moody is here to check your mood. Are you feeling happy?”

“Yes, Dr. Moody, I’m happy now that you’re here.”

“Let me check your smile.”

She smiled broadly and Dr. Moody nodded approvingly.

“Let me see your eyes.”

She widened her eyes.

“Good. Your eyes are sparkling. I hope you keep your happy mood all day.”

“I will Dr. Moody, I will.”

We continued with Dr. Moody checking on some more patients. Each one enjoyed his company and he promised to come again and check on their moods.

After rounds, Veronica slid Dr. Moody off her arm and hung him near another popular puppet, Froggie, who she also uses for therapeutic purposes.

“People who are living with dementia often feel very comfortable communicating with puppets,” Veronica says.

I wondered if Dr. Moody was open to new patients and Veronica assured me he was.

Click here to meet the good doctor. img_3325-1

“Puppets break down barriers,” Veronica says. “They have no religion, no gender, and no judgment. People living with dementia often feel comfortable confiding in a puppet.”

In a space of three to five minutes, I saw Veronica and Dr. M transform the energy of the people they visited. I asked Veronica to share a few tips for using puppets.

Click here to learn more. 

If you’d like to know more about Veronica and her work, read her chapter in Connecting in the Land of Dementia.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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Five Creative Tips for Meaningful Engagement

 

Each person I interviewed for Connecting in the Land of Dementia inspired me with something meaningful and unique. I wanted to share a few of their ideas with you.

Before I do, here’s a question: What does the song FrimFram Sauce, the recipe for Johnny Marzimagesetti, and cooking have to do with creativity and dementia? Join us Sunday October 9th at 1:30 at the Kansas City Plaza Library to find out!  RSVP 816-701-3407

The Often Hidden Poetic Potential

“Value what people with dementia are saying, write it down, tape record it, affirm them when they say interesting or beautiful things because that’s their personality showing through in a new way,” says John Killick, internationally acclaimed poet, workshop leader, and author of  Communication And The Care Of People With Dementia.

Even though he’s been orchestrating workshops for years, John is still amazed at the strength of the imaginative spirit and at the quality of the poetry.

images-1“Creativity is essential to people with dementia,” John believes. “It bypasses the intellect, provides valuable experiences, and enhances their sense of personhood.”

 

 

Making Art Soothes and Engages

“Research is now recognizing how making art soothes, and engages people with dementia,” says Shelley Klammer, artist, therapist and the author of the e-book How to Start An Art Program for the Elderly. “Imagery often expresses what words cannot. A pre-drawn structure allows an anxious painter to relax into the process. Painting familiar subject matter can help a person with dementia settle into a pleasurable, meditative state.”

Uncovering and Celebrating Creativity

“Our basic instincts include discovery and invention, and thus creativity,” says John Zeisel, PhD, author of  I’m Still Here: A New Philosophy of Alzheimer’s Care. “These abilities are hard-wired and people living with dementia can still draw on these skills. They are often exceptionally perceptive, increasingly creative, and have high emotional intelligence. It’s our job to uncover and embrace their abilities so they maintain dignity, independence, and self-respect.”

The Delight of Going to Cultural Activities and Viewing Art imgres

“Looking at art and making observations gives people living with dementia a chance to exercise their imagination and creativity,” says Susan Shifrin, PhD, director, ARTZ Philadelphia. “Many people with dementia have a heightened sensitivity and openness to art, even if they had no previous artistic aptitude.”

“Going to cultural activities offers people a sense of normalcy and gives them a date to put on their calendars,” says Teri Miller, with the Alzheimer’s Association Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter. Teri has witnessed the power of creativity and the arts. As the Early Stage Program Manager she says. “When people living with dementia go with friends or care partners, they have an experience to discuss. Even people who say, ‘Oh, I don’t care for museums,’ usually have a great time.”

Deborah Shouse is the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together and Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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The Power of the Playlist

img_3138-1Ron and I were already champions of Dan Cohen’s world-changing Music & Memory program, which is featured in Connecting in the Land of Dementia, but we had never met Dan in person. The moment we learned we were going to New York City, we reached out to Dan and he agreed to meet with us.

Dan is a prime example of one collaborative person making a difference for thousands. Eighteen states have already funded Music & Memory rollouts as a best practice approach for care facilities to improve quality of life for persons with dementia. In Toronto, everyone who is diagnosed with dementia receives a free iPod so they can enjoy personalized music. Dan and his team have trained 5000 dementia care managers, who understand how effective this program is. He is currently collaborating with hospitals, hospice, and prisons, as well as long term care communities.

Here is some of the wisdom he shared with us.

“We all need to create our personal play lists now,” Dan says. “Music makes any healthcare encounter better.  Whether you’re waiting in the doctor’s office, going into the hospital, attending rehab, or moving into a care community, you’ll have a more comfortable experience when you are able to listen to favorite songs.”

Click here to listen to Dan Cohen.

Click here to learn more about the Music and Memory program.

Read more about Dan’s programs in Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.  Order your copy from your favorite independent or online bookstore.

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At Long Last: A Page-Turning Love Story

2005_3_comptxMy hands trembled as I reached out my arms. For three long years I’d been working toward this meeting and yearning for this moment. Now, it was finally here. She was more beautiful than I had imagined, with a pleasing weight, just right for holding, just right for spending long hours with. From a glance, her personality seemed strong and purposeful and yet her warm, colorful exterior told me she would be easy to read.  As she gradually opened up to me, I felt her power, her accessibility, her willingness to share ideas and wisdom. She felt great; she looked great; and she was brimming with exciting new ideas. Three long years and finally, she was in my arms. I hugged her tightly. At last I was holding my new book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together

What makes this book unique? It’s the amazing people who contributed to it. During the writing process, I interviewed dozens of innovators across the globe, gathering ideas that engage the creative spirit so you can continue to experience meaningful moments throughout the dementia journey. These luminaries inspired me every step of the way and I am eager to share their ideas with you.

This book is brimming with easy projects using music, art, movies, cooking, gardening, and more. Here are some of the benefits you can look forward to when you do these activities together: Increased energy and socialization, an improved sense of purpose, reduced anxiety, and chances to express yourselves in new and meaningful ways.

Here’s even more good news about the ideas in this book. They’re adaptable for all ages and abilities, and you don’t need to have any special talents. Simply incorporate them into your daily routine and you’ll enrich your time together.

Marc Wortmann, Executive Director, Alzheimer’s Disease International, called the book “A ‘must read’ for every care partner because it really helps you to look at things differently!”

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If you’re in the Kansas City area, please join us for the book launch on Sunday afternoon, October 9th, at 1:30 for a reception in the Truman Forum at the Plaza Library. The free presentation will begin at 2:00  This lively program, filled with ideas, stories, and songs,  features myself and my partner Ron Zoglin, musical luminaries Rod Fleeman and Cynthia Schroer, and guest speaker Michelle Niedens from the Heart of America Chapter, Alzheimer’s Association.

RSVP 816-701-3407 

For those of you in the Washington DC area, please join us at the free Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Caregiver’s Conference on Thursday September 29. We’ll be presenting there, along with other experts in the field. Click here to register.

We recently heard from several readers, saying, “This book is going to help so many people. I’m recommending it to my friends and colleagues.”

That’s what this is all about: enriching people’s lives through meaningful engagement.

It’s a challenge, bringing a new book into the world and we welcome your ideas and help in spreading the word about the book and the event.

You can order a copy now from Rainy Day Books, our book-seller for the event, or online.

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Here is some advanced praise:

“A thoughtful and positive guide to the very thing I find myself constantly advocating to doctors, caregivers, and family members—social stimulation and creative arts will limit the need for psychiatric medication and improve the quality of life for those with dementia more than anything else.”   Doug Wornell, MD, Life Solutions Group for Geriatric and Neurological Psychiatry

“Buy this book, read it, highlight what inspires you. As you make notes and bend pages to personalize this guide, you are creating a family treasure.” Carol Bradley Burdock, Founder of Minding Our Elders

“Deborah Shouse provides a great public service by shining light on the numerous creative activities that can meaningfully engage the minds and spirits of persons living with dementia. From personalized music to storytelling, Shouse makes it easy for caregivers to understand the various options they have to help their loved ones navigate through their everyday lives.”  Dan Cohen, MSW  Founding Executive Director, MUSIC & MEMORYsm

 

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An Art Lesson in Paris

An integral part of experiencing Paris is looking at art. Chantal Debreu, a psychotherapist, serves as a volunteer and board member of the city’s Action Culturelle Alzheimer. To properly discuss the fascinating programs Chantal and her colleagues designed in collaboration with Musée d’Orsay, Musée de Cluny, and the Château de Versailles, we met at a sidewalk café over croissants and coffee.  imgres

(Note to fellow writers: It is extremely difficult to enjoy a croissant while typing on an iPad. The flakes flutter festively about the keyboard.)

 

 

Art Speaks a Universal Language

“Art is a universal language and looking at art is a wonderful way to access the creative capacities of people living with dementia,” Chantal says. “Looking at and discussing art can also at least temporarily reduce issues such as agitation, depression, apathy, and aggression.”

To facilitate such cultural connections, Chantal and Cindy Barotte, founder of Action Culturelle Alzheimer, created a three-day training program for volunteers, complete with information about dementia, case studies, and role play. Cindy developed a structure for finding meaning in works of art for volunteers and museum educators. The program connects each beneficiary with a trained volunteer who is there for five gallery visits. During the art experience, the caregiver has much-needed respite time.

“The volunteer helps people living with dementia explore their own capacities by supporting them,” Chantal says.

IMG_2035The structure encourages engagement and creative expression. To view the work of art, participants sit in a semi-circle, so they can see and hear each other. The semi-circle creates a sense of group belonging and also blocks out the public. The volunteers sit in back of their person. If the person with dementia feels shy about speaking out, they may turn and share with their volunteer. The volunteer reports the insight to the educator, who shares it with the group.

Art Breaks Ice and Inspires Ideas

The program inspires conversation and ideas. People living with dementia tend to notice the details, but they may not attach a meaning to them. Little by little, the facilitators talk through the elements of the painting, helping them associate and build meaning, so they understand the story of the painting. When they start to make associations, they talk about their experiences. They come away feeling like they are someone; they have ideas and memories to share.

“At the Centre Pompidou, we discussed Bleu, a giant Miro canvas,” says Chantal. “We talked about it for 15 minutes. Everyone was involved and actively engaged in investigating, wondering, and sharing.”

Art Travels with You

Want to bring the Paris art experience home? Here are some tips: imgres-1

  • Select a work of art to comfortably view together, either on-line, from a book, or at a local gallery.
  • As you look, ask open-ended questions, such as, “Why is that woman staring?”
  • Encourage conversation by continuing to ask engaging questions. If someone notices  a bicycle, make an affirming comment about the bicycle and ask “What else do you see?”

“It’s not about telling,” Chantal says. “It’s about asking.”

For more on the international scene, dive into my book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.  Pre-order your signed copy.

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