Tag Archives: care partners

Three Benefits of Artistic Alchemy

Last week, I wrote about Julian West and his work with music and dementia. Hannah Zeilig, PhD, is an expert in culture, language, and dementia, who participated in and documented Julian’s program. When I interviewed Hannah, I was inspired by her perspective on arts and communications and wanted to share a few of her key ideas.

images-1“The project showed us that you can converse in so many ways,” says Hannah. “The musicians and the dancer reminded us that we all can communicate without language.”

“One of the questions we’re asking in the UK is ‘How can the arts help with dementia? What can arts do that a game of dominoes cannot?’ ” Hannah says. “The arts help people become brave in how they connect with each other.”

The arts also transcend our dependence on achievement, identity, and memory.

“Being scared of dementia is the biggest barrier,” Hannah says. “In our language and our media, dementia is stigmatized and portrayed as catastrophic. One of the natural and common fears is summarized by this: ‘If I can’t remember where I live and my achievements, how do I know who I am?’

Julian’s work reminds us that we are all creative.

“People with dementia can be brimming with creativity and humor and able to make connections with each other,” Hannah says.

During one of Julian’s sessions, the musicians were playing and the dancer was cavorting around the circle. One resident, Alicia, walked right up, took the dancer’s hands and lead her in a waltz.

At the end of the dance, Alicia was glowing. She smiled and said, “We really just did something.”

And she was right.

….

imagesOther gifts from this work in the arts:

  • The residents communicated with more sounds and gestures.
  • The staff saw the creative side of the residents.
  • The creative atmosphere opened everyone up to alternate ways to connecting.

For more about Hannah and her work, visit:

http://markmaking.arts.ac.uk

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 

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Orchestrating a Musical Conversation

imagesWhen Ron’s dad was living in a memory care unit, Ron and I talked with the residents and their families, learning about their favorite songs. We orchestrated a sing-along and had fun working with everyone and putting together a scrapbook of each resident’s special tunes. The combination of music and conversation created a sense of community for us all. Julian West, who we met on a recent trip to London, is creating community through engaging people in music and dance. We really love the way he weaves the two art forms  together and wanted to share his easy and adaptable ideas with you.

Julian West had no idea what would happen at the care facility, but he trusted it would be something wonderful. An accomplished oboist and a teacher at the Royal Academy of Music, Julian assembled a violist, a composer, a dancer, and an artist to share energy and their art with people who are living with dementia.

“This was an experiment to see what could happen,” Julian says. “We worked completely improvisationally.”

percussionOnce a week, for eight weeks, the troupe came to the residential care home and created a living arts experience with residents and staff. They began by inviting everyone to choose a percussion instrument, such as rain sticks, bells, shakers, tambourine, etc.

“We had a musical conversation,” Julian says. “One person made a sound and another answered. We also chatted a lot. People commented on the music or expressed an emotion or impression.”

The musicians added their instruments and the staff and residents joined in, through percussion and voice.  They made fascinating sounds, like an improv jazz singer might do. The dancer twirled around in the center of their circle. Her free movements gave the group a focal point and inspired others to explore various movements.

“I let go of preconceptions and tried to create an open atmosphere,” Julian says.

The artists’ openness helped the “conversation” grow and blossom.

imgresOne woman who was living with dementia held up a tambourine, keeping it still and gazing at it as though it were a beautiful and revered object.

Julian’s first thought was, “She doesn’t know it’s a musical instrument”.

“I let that thought go,” he says. “I saw how expressive she was. Her interaction with the tambourine was beautiful and profound and she allowed us all to see the instrument differently.”

Even if you don’t have your own musicians and dancers at home, you can still create this supportive and creative atmosphere.

  • Share a few percussion instruments, put on some music you both like, and make some joyful noises. Experiment with bee-bop syllables to add a sense of freedom.
  • After the song, talk about the experience, what you liked, what you felt, and any other impressions that came up.
  • Consider inviting a “guest dancer,” someone who likes to move to music, or a child of a friend who’s taking dancing lessons. Go ahead and add your own moves.
  • Invite friends and family to join you. You’ll have something to laugh, and sing, and talk about.

For more information about Julian’s work, visit: www.julianwest.co.uk

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 

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Tips from a Parisian Artist

IMG_2060There’s something magical about visiting an artist in his studio. Especially if that studio is in Paris.  We were honored to meet Patrick Laurin, artist and art therapist, on a recent trip to France.

In the beginning, Patrick Laurin’s work with people who were living with dementia went slowly. When he first visited the care home and invited people to join him for painting, he heard various reasons the idea wouldn’t work.                                                                                                                                     “I can’t hear you.”  “I can’t see you.”  “I can’t move my arm.”

IMG_2118Patrick, who had quit working as researcher in the pharmaceutical industry so he could create deeper connections with clients, understood the importance of building relationships. Gradually, he got to know the people who lived in the community. He wanted to tailor an artistic experience specific to each person’s abilities and needs.

Over time, the people who couldn’t see, hear, or move were all happily involved in painting.

One woman seemed to blossom when holding the brush and stroking on the paint. Even though she couldn’t later remember to say, “I’ve been painting,” she enjoyed the experience.

One day, Patrick was on another floor in the care community when he encountered this woman and her daughter.

Her daughter said to Patrick,” You are the painter.”

Patrick was thrilled her mother had been able to mention the art therapy sessions. But before he could respond, the mother said, “No, the painter is me.”

“Inside, she was seeing herself as an artist,” Patrick says. “The painting strengthened her identity.”

IMG_2084Patrick has learned to approach each person with flexibility. Sometimes Patrick jump starts his artists with a squiggle of color on the page. Then he steps back to let them respond with their own squiggle. If they’re stymied, he offers a choice of two colors.

He also uses collage techniques to inspire his artists. He selects three separate pictures, each with one recognizable thing, such as a house, tree, or dog. He shows the photos to the artist, and asks, “Which one of these attracts you?” When the artist chooses a photo, Patrick then asks, “Where would you like to put this on the paper?”  He and the artist apply paste to the paper.

“We don’t turn over the picture and apply paste, because the image then disappears and that can be confusing,” he says.

When the picture is glued to the paper, Patrick discusses a color that’s already in the picture.

“You could take the blue in the sky and extend it,” he might suggest.  This suggestion often inspires the artists to start painting.  If they get stuck, Patrick says,  “What might look good near the house?” In this way, the painting expands.

For one woman, painting began as a series of colors and grew into a personal story.

She pasted a house and began expanding the lawn. Then she drew a bridge and weeks later, she added in a dog. At first, she was painting “a house, a bridge and a dog.” As the picture took shape, she said, “This is my house and my dog and this is the bridge we had to cross to get to the house.” The process of painting had loosened memories of her childhood home.

IMG_2090“When I share a piece of art by one of my students, I also share the story behind it,” Patrick says. “The act of creation is more important than the results.”

Tips:

Pick something that is easy for you, the care partner.

Put a point of color on the pages, then stand back. Offer support but don’t paint.

Enjoy the process and don’t get stuck on the results.

 

Thanks to Berna Huebner, founder of the Hilgos Foundation and co-producer of the documentary, “I Remember Better When I Paint,” for suggesting we meet  with Patrick.

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 

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Get Cooking on Giving Back

The assembly line stretched around the spacious dining room table and each person focused fully on his task. One man spread mayonnaise on bread. Another placed turkey slices and another added cheese. Another slipped the sandwich into a baggie and others assembled the lunches, adding potato chips and a cookie. All worked diligently; there was a special purpose to this meeting of the Men’s Club at Dolan Memory Care Homes in Creve Coeur, Missouri. They were giving these homemade meals to the fire fighters in their community as a way of showing their appreciation.

Charlie making fire station lunch Charles making lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten residents of varying abilities, including all levels of memory impairment, contributed to the sandwich brigade. Those who needed help had an assistant with them.

“The participating residents were filled with high energy and good spirits,” says Mary Kate Halm, LMSW, Admissions Coordinator of Dolan, who organized the activity. “They were excited to be engaged.”

The local fire department had invited the group to tour the station when they delivered the lunches. The experience included opening up the sides of the fire truck. One of the residents, who was usually indifferent to outings, used to be a tool designer. When he saw the tools in the fire truck, his eyes grew wide and he became very animated.

“Everyone enjoyed being engaged in a purposeful activity. They loved the tour and they asked excellent questions,” Mary Kate says. They wanted to know the details of their training, how much each truck cost, how much their equipment weighed, and more.  The residents weren’t the only ones engaged.

“The firemen loved the attention,” Mary Kate says. “Plus, they were patient, communicated clearly, and were considerate of those in walkers and wheelchairs.”

The community volunteer activity generated a lot of joy and curiosity.

“They were completely connected to the experience,” Mary Kate says. “They were learning, they were giving back, and they were fully present. We created a moment of joy and that’s all that matters.”

Men's Club with firefighters

Get ready to give back:

Mary Kate offers these tips for connecting with the community and giving back.

  • Look for a service organization that you admire. This can be emergency responders such as fire fighters, police, sheriffs, EMTs, as well as animal rescue teams, cancer support organizations, and more.
  • Find a project that’s fun for you and for the person living with dementia, a project you can both participate in. If you have friends and family who’d like to help, this is a great time to get others involved.
  • Coordinate with the organization and find a time to deliver your gifts. If it’s of interest, ask for a chance to learn more about the organization.

Jim Relling helmet

For more interesting activity ideas, visit https://t.e2ma.net/message/gxreo/4bbql

https://www.facebook.com/DolanCare1994/

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 

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How to Create a Network of Dementia Friends

Ron and I recently traveled to Europe and we were lucky to meet with several creative thought leaders working in the field of dementia. Over the next weeks, we’ll share some of their insights with you, ideas we can incorporate into our every day lives as care partners, friends, and dementia advocates. We met with Philippa Tree, Senior International Officer Alzheimer’s Society UK, in a charming coffee shop located near the Tower of London.

The U.K. has more than one and a half million Dementia Friends, and 10,000 Dementia Friends Champions, volunteers who deliver the Information Sessions. Their goal–four million Dementia Friends in the next two years.

IMG_0285Philippa Tree is part of the Dementia Friends team at Alzheimer’s Society UK. The Dementia Friends programme is a social action movement that aims to transform the way England and Wales think, act, and talk about dementia. It started in 2012 when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in partnership with Alzheimer’s Society UK, urged his country to focus on building dementia-friendly communities.  He became a Dementia Friend and challenged others to join him.

The free Dementia Friends Information Sessions help people understand what living with dementia might be like. The sessions also offer small action steps so people can make a difference to those affected by dementia in their community.  Anyone of any age can be a Friend by attending an information session or watching an online video.

Philippa’s work with Dementia Friends extends beyond the UK and across the world. She’s recently been collaborating with partners in the United States to roll out a pilot Dementia Friends program in the near future. At the recent Alzheimer’s Disease International  Conference in Budapest, Philippa facilitated a session with countries including Nigeria, Germany, Israel, Scotland, Canada, and Indonesia.

IMG_0301“After only two years, Dementia Friends has become one of the UK’s biggest social movements on any disease.” Philippa says. “We’re working on using positive language and spreading positive messages as we tackle the stigma around dementia. My current role is to support countries worldwide to implement a Dementia Friends program, and to learn and share experiences.”

While Philippa and her team are working in England and Wales, and worldwide, each of us can make a difference on a local level.  Here are examples of action steps people have enjoyed taking:

 

  • Share positive stories about friends and family who are living with dementia. This helps reduce the social stigma.
  • Volunteer for creative programs and events for those who are living with dementia.
  • Spend time visiting family and friends who are living with dementia.
  • Talk to other care partners and ask how their lives are enriched through their caring experiences.

For more information about the Dementia Friends programme, please visit their website : www.dementiafriends.org.uk.

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

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