Activities

Celebrating Great Connectors Throughout the Dementia Journey: Music, Nature, and Laughter

When care partners gather and trade stories and ideas, there’s usually magic afoot. We felt that magic when we met with a group of family and professional care partners to celebrate great connectors throughout the dementia journey. We presented engaging ideas using music, nature, laughter and more.

Lisa Vetter, Director of Healthcare Sales & Marketing,  Santa Marta Senior Living Community, invited us to speak at an event announcing the community’s new care partner support group. The group is led by Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN, Clinical Community Liaison, Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care. Jennifer also facilitates the KC Memory Cafe and she is compassionate, informed, and smart. Most importantly, she has a fantastic sense of humor.

Ron and I shared ways to stay connected through singing and music, looking at works of art together, bringing nature indoors, and laughing. And our audience shared their experiences as well.  

Here’s a story about nature that inspired us.

Marcie took her mom, who was living with dementia, on a fascinating monthly outing: they drove out into the country to look at the full moon. Her mother didn’t talk much anymore, but she loved seeing the night sky and gazing at the magnificent moon. One evening, as the moonlight spread over the car, Mom began singing, When the moon comes over the mountain. Marcie had never heard the song before and her eyes filled with tears at hearing her mom sing so strongly and clearly. 

Here’s a story about the power of familiar music. Karen’s mom was a devout Catholic, living with dementia. Though there were many things she didn’t remember, including her daughter’s name, when she attended Sunday mass, she melodically sang every word of every hymn. 

We loved sharing with this group of dedicated and compassionate care partners, who were all seeking ways to stay connected. 

Here’s an extra tip from Connecting in the Land of Dementia:  When you want to boost energy and lift spirits, add a splash of laughter into your life. Look at a clock and say, “We’re going to laugh for 30 seconds,” and start ha ha ha-ing. Or pretend you’re talking on the phone and hearing a hilarious joke. Or warble out the Ha Ha Chorus by singing the Happy Birthday song in “ha ha ha” syllables. 

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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Dementia Friendly Cafes: Inviting Creativity and Connection

       More than 10 years ago, Jytte Lokvig, PhD, was scanning the internet for additional information about dementia. On one of her Google searches she saw the words “Alzheimer’s Cafe” posted by Dr. Bere Miesen, who founded the first Alzheimer’s cafe in Leiden, the Netherlands in 1997. That phrase electrified her.  She leapt out of her chair, much to the dismay of her cat, who was cozily sleeping across her feet, and declared, “I am going to make that happen in the U.S.!” She’d been working with people who were living with dementia in community settings for some years, orchestrating art, music, craft and other meaningful projects. But she felt something was missing. That something, she realized, was engagement in the community.
        From that inspiration, Jytte created the original U.S. Alzheimer’s Cafe in Santa Fe, NM in 2008. Ten years later, there are more than 300 cafes in the US that invite creativity and connection through dementia friendly cafes.   
       Recently, Ron and I visited Jytte’s cafe.
       “The word cafe denotes relaxation, companionship, a place where someone can go in and out without judgement,” Jytte says.
       The Santa Fe Alzheimer’s Cafe is held in an accessible room in the Children’s Museum. Jytte designed her sessions for a small audience and offers a mixture of art projects, singing, jokes, unusual facts, pleasant conversation, and snacks. 
Empowering people to make choices is an important component of Jytte’s cafe: so many people living with dementia don’t have the opportunity to choose. As people arrived, Jytte invited them to choose from an array of healthy snacks. For the art project, she offered a rock or a plate to paint on. 
       “Would you like a round plate of a square one?” she asked.
She had laid down dark green plastic so people could easily see their white plates against the green background. She squeezed bright acrylic paints into palettes and everyone began painting. One guest painted with her care partner, an activity they often do at home. Another guest instantly incorporated a rock,  her palette,  and her paper plate into a fascinating and colorful montage. Her best friend, Susan, delighted us all by bringing her African Grey Parrot, Cochiti, who perched on her head during the session and happily posed for photos and ate dried goldenberries.       
       While we painted, we talked, about art, our lives, the bird, and movies. We all loved movies and Susan told us that one of their Santa Fe theaters offered care partners and people living with dementia two tickets for the price of one. That is an example of one of the fascinating tidbits we learned at the cafe. (We are going to learn more about that program and see which of our wonderful theaters in KC want to offer that discount.)
       “This intimate setting and small group creates a sense of family,” Jytte told us as we hugged everyone goodbye.
She was right. After only two hours, we felt connected to each of the attendees and we were sorry to have to part.  But we were inspired to return home to Kansas City, with fresh ideas for our Cafe.
To set up a cafe atmosphere for an art project in your own home:
  • Arrange a few snacks.
  • Invite a guest or two, if you wish. This is an intergenerational project. 
  • Put a brightly colored plastic covering on the table.
  • Squeeze some acrylic paint into a palette. Or use tempura or water colors.
  • Offer a choice between two brushes.
  • Offer a choice between two canvases: a cardboard paper plate, a river rock, paper, or other.
  • Relax and let the painting unfold.
  • If your loved ones need a little help, you can paint together. Or you can rest their hand on yours, while you paint to get them used to the movement of the brush.
  • Appreciate the art by commenting on the color, the design, the shapes. Don’t ask them to identify the art: enjoy it as it is. 
  • Weave conversation into your time together. 

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For more information about Jytte and her work, visit :
Want to set up your own cafe? Consider Jytte’s book.
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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A Stirring Tea Party Brings People Together

It took us an hour to prepare for our festive tea party and we all enjoyed every moment of it. Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN, Clinical Community Liaison, Kansas City Hospice & Palliative Care, knows how to throw a party. She brought pastel table cloths, a charming complement of paisley-printed cups and plates, along with tiered cookie holders.  

For the ladies, she offered colorful fascinators (small hats you can clip into your hair) and bright boas. For the men, she had bow ties and top hats. She also brought the ingredients for tea time sandwiches and a variety of cheeses, veggies and meats. Kathi Michaels and Heidi Underwood from Leawood Gardens, and Lainey Berry, from the Law Office of Love & Blomquist, generously provided an array of baked treats, including legendary cookies from McClain’s Bakery and delectable lemon squares. 

Our guest speaker, Emilie Jackson from Emilie’s French Teas, shared information about the international history, social rituals, and health benefits that come with sipping a cup of tea. After her talk, everyone set to work creating cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, with the crusts cut off, of course.  We were able to smell several different teas and each person chose a favorite to savor. The food and drink were delicious but even better were the conversations. Each table got into discussions about tea, coffee, life, and more.  One guest enjoyed a tete a tete in French with Emilie, who is originally from France. 

The gathering was so much fun and so engaging, with all the aromas, tastes, and textures, that none of us wanted to leave.  It took us even longer to clean up after the stirring tea party, because we had to help eat the leftovers!

Click on this link for the inside story on our tea party: Memory Cafe, Tea Party

Here are a few of our favorite tea quotes:

Where there’s tea there’s hope. Arthur Wing Pinero

If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are depressed, it will cheer you; If you are excited, it will calm you.  William Ewart Gladstone

I like the pause that tea allows. Waris Ahluwalia

A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. Eleanor Roosevelt

Please join us for our next cafe when the great Nick Haines brings us the inside story on KC local news. We can’t wait!

Our team, ready for tea

Thanks to our sponsors:

The Kanas City Public Library

The Alzheimer’s Association

The Creativity Connection, Deborah Shouse and Ron Zoglin

Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care

Arts & Aging KC

KC FilmFest

Prairie Elder Care

The Villages of Jackson Creek Memory Care

Dennis and Carol McCurdy, Community Volunteers

 

Please email Deborah at myinfo@pobox.com if you need additional information.

And, we hope you can join us for our next events.

 

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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76 Trombones Star in June’s Movies and Memories Event

In The Music Man, people flock to hear about the idea for a band. They imagine the shiny instruments, the colorful uniforms, and the scruffy boys in their small Iowa town transformed into revered members of a marching band.

In the Movies and Memories showing of this iconic film, life imitated art. During intermission, the Dirty Force Brass Band marched down the aisles of the Truman Forum, playing a zesty jazz number. People from the first floor of the library raced down the stairs, wanting to get closer to the music. Many of them stayed to watch the second half of the movie!

This was the longest movie we’ve shown at our series and it was a big success. What a treat to see it on the big screen and to enjoy a very young and adorable Ronny Howard as Winthrope, the agile and the charismatic Robert Preston wooing the melodic Shirley Jones, as Marian the Librarian. And is there anything better that seeing a movie partially set in a library while you’re sitting in a library.!

You can click on this link to get the flavor of the event:

Movies and Memories: The Music Man

“We loved the music,” one family told us.

“This is my daughter’s favorite musical,” a mom told us, smiling at her four-year-old daughter. 

“All this is free?” one of our guests said, relishing her popcorn and cookie.

Every two months, the Movies and Memories treats the Kansas City community to a dementia and family friend film, along with live music and delicious snacks, and a surprise at the end. Everyone who attended was excited to take home various kinds of colorful noise makers.   #

 

 

 

Please join us for our next dementia-friendly events:

Mark your calendars for these upcoming events:

JULY

Tu 17 – Memory Café: Tea Party

AUGUST

Tu 21 – Memory Café: Nick Haines from KCPT

Su 26 – Movies & Memories: Around the World / KC Boys Choir

SEPTEMBER

Tu 18 – Memory Café: Nelson-Atkins

OCTOBER

Tue 16 – Memory Café: Wornall House

Su 21 – Movies & Memories: Moana, uke players, hula dancers

NOVEMBER

* Wed 14 – Memory Café: Dog & Pony & Pig Show

DECEMBER

Su 9 – Movies & Memories: holiday movie shorts & cookie decorating

Tu 18 – Memory Café: Santa & Symphony

Thanks to all our teammates who help make these gatherings happen: 

The Kanas City Public Library

The Alzheimer’s Association

The Creativity Connection, Deborah Shouse and Ron Zoglin

Kansas City Hospice and Palliative Care

Arts & Aging KC

KC FilmFest

Prairie Elder Care

The Villages of Jackson Creek Memory Care

Dennis and Carol McCurdy, Community Volunteers

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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Connected in the Land of Dementia: Easy Ideas and Free Events

The more research we read, the more people who are living with dementia we listen to, the more care partners we consult, the more we understand the power of keeping engaged, inspired, and connected in the land of dementia.
Along with Jennifer Walker, RN, BSN, Clinical Community Liaison from Kansas City Hospice, we’ll be sharing ideas for staying connected on Wednesday June 27, at 6:00 at Santa Marta.
If you’re interested, please join us for this free event.  We’re also including information on two free dementia-friendly gatherings happening in June in KC.
 
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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KC Memory Cafe: Great Weather Information Inspires Great Conversations

Karli Ritter is a self-described “weather nerd.” When this Fox 4 meteorologist finished her lively talk at April’s KC Memory Cafe, we all had a bit of that “weather nerd” fever in us. We listened intently as Karli described her early morning routine, up at 4:30 a.m., studying the weather maps and data so she could formulate a forecast. She detailed the complexities of being an integral part of a five-hour show: she actually appears on TV 90 times during the Kansas City Fox morning show! Her talk reminded us that great weather information inspires great conversations.

Karli has a love for storms and we were delighted with our “tornado” experience, courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library staff. We used a special coupler to link one empty liter bottle with one half full with water. Then we shook and turned it upside down and voila! a little tunnel tornado formed in the water! Each person was fascinated by this experiment. That led us to a conversation about personal weather experiences. Our attendees had gone through hurricanes, earthquakes, dust storms, tornadoes, nor’easter’s and much more.

Our discussion continued on the way out, with guests describing the varied weather in the Kansas Flint Hills, rainbows they’d seen, family members who loved forecasting the weather, and long hot summers and long cold winters.  

To watch our weather wonders, click here.

Bringing the weather home.

To start a weather conversation in your own family or community, use music as a catalyst. Play songs such as: You Are My Sunshine, Stormy Weather, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, The Sunny Side of the Street, Let It Snow. After each song, ask an open-ended question. “What do you like about snow?” Or,” What seasons do you like most?” Or “Have you ever been in a really big storm?” Or,”What is your favorite kind of weather?”

You can also play iconic movie clips that feature weather, such as the joyous tap dancing scene in Singing in the Rain, or the tornado scene in The Wizard of Oz. 

Dramatic weather photos and pictures can also trigger memories and comments. 

Thanks to our Cafe Team and thanks for those who visited.

Our next adventure: May 15, 10:30 to 12:00, Plaza Library

Music to Our Ears: The Kansas City Symphony Brings Us Note-worthy Instruments

You’ve heard them as part of the orchestra. Now you’ll be meeting selected instruments first-hand, as the Symphony’s Margaret Halloin joins us for this delightful interactive session. Enjoy refreshments and interesting conversations as we learn more about the sounds of music.

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 Play in the Dementia Journey

Josh Rice, a theatre maker and teaching artist,  discovered the power of play in the dementia journey when he was still in graduate school.  As part of a school project, he partnered with a senior living community on a therapeutic puppetry and improv-based program for people living with dementia.

Together, Josh and the seniors designed and made puppets, and created performances that included songs, personal stories, and comedy. As he worked with the new artists, he noticed people were using their puppets to tell stories. They expressed emotions and they enjoyed the chance to play and have fun. Staff applauded the participants’ short-term memory gains and tactile improvements.

“Plus, we were creating exciting work and performing for people,” Josh says.

Puppetry

One afternoon, a woman who was having a difficult day burst into the puppetry classroom. She was non-verbal but acted out aggressively in a way that could have potentially agitated others. As Josh and the students were rehearsing, she walked in and before she could disrupt the class, Josh made eye contact with her, and gently touched her shoulder. He quietly talked to her and invited her to join in or sit and watch. Within minutes she calmed down.

“I put a puppet in her hand and all of a sudden her language came back. It was like a switch had been turned on,” Josh says.  This woman filled him with hope and inspired him. “I want people to understand that people who are living with dementia sometimes need us to be patient and keep giving them chances,” he says.

Being in the Moment

Josh knew the potential power of theatrical play and experimented with improv sessions for people living with dementia. The experiment worked.

“For improv, you have to listen and react,” Josh says.  “The past or future doesn’t matter; it’s all about the present moment.”

He created a safe, nurturing, and creative atmosphere, offering structured improvisations, and invited his new improv team to play.

“They loved it and it was a thrill to watch them discovering new things and coming up with creative dialogues,” Josh says. “Play is an integral part of our lives and most of us need more of it.”

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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A Memorable Meeting: KC Memory Cafe

You know what it’s like, creating a program series for the first time. You try to think of everything, knowing that you’ve probably left something out. You hope plenty of people will attend and worry that no one will show up. The weather teases you, threatening snow or rain, thunder or wind. The “what if’s” line up, a mean group of scolders: “What if the elevator breaks? What if the speaker doesn’t show up? What if the snacks don’t arrive? What if the KC Memory Cafe doesn’t work!”

But, as most of us know, worry isn’t really that useful.

The debut of the KC Memory Cafe was beyond our highest expectations! On March 20, 2018, at 10:30 at the Plaza Library, the educators from the Kansas City Zoo showed up early, riding the elevator down to the lower level with their exotic offerings. The weather was perfect and a lovely group of 40 plus care partners and people living with dementia joined us, delighting in the delicious snacks.  And they were even more delighted with the program, all of us laughing at the antics of the cockatoo, leaning forward to see the Vietnamese Tree Frog cozied in his glass aquarium, and petting the chinchilla, with a fluff of fur that felt like a cloud.

“I love this animal,” one attendee said, smiling at the blue tongued skink. 

“This is the softest fur I’ve ever experienced,” said another, reveling in the chinchilla. 

“That bird is so funny,” said another, laughing as the cockatoo bounced up and down, “dancing.” 

After learning about the animals, we talked about our own pet memories. It was a wonderful morning and we can’t wait for our next Memory Cafe, on April 17, 2018. 

Click here so you can experience the fun of the Cafe.

https://drive.google.com/open? id= 1mU8Iw83lGbhw6FeAVJ3VQ8xhe75qt YYm

Want to join us on April 17 for our next Cafe?                        Here’s the scoop!

Weather Wonders: The Inside Story

Metereologist Karli Ritter Reveals Weather Mysteries 10:30 am on Tuesday, April 17, 2018. Plaza Library Lower Level.   Join us for the KC Memory Cafe, a free event dedicated to creating educational and social experiences for people who are living with memory loss and for their care partners. 

Our Team — Standing: Emily Cox, April Roy, Carol and Dennis McCurdy. Sitting: Ron Zoglin and Deborah Shouse, Jennifer Walker, Mandy Shoemaker

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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Movies and Memories—An Oscar-Winning Experience

“Thank goodness for this program,” one of our Movie and Memories’ guests told us. “There are so few places Mom and I can enjoy going together these days.”

“Thanks for this cookie. I could really use a little nurturing today,” another said.

“My goodness, I was delighted to learn about this program,” another said.

“What a treat, to have these films and these treats for free,” a couple told us.

Everyone arrived ready for movie magic. One of our volunteers from the Alzheimer’s Association brought a generous tray of cookies and brownies to share with everyone.

“How will we ever eat all those cookies?” I wondered initially. Well, it turns out, we had a large and wonderful group of sweet sweet-lovers, who thoroughly enjoyed the films and the feast.

Our three Oscar-nominated shorts met with great approval and included Glas, Joe’s Violin, and Room on a Broom.  When Michelle Niedens, Director of Education and Programs at the Heart of America Alzheimer’s Association, asked us all, “Which short would you have voted for?” it was between the inspiring documentary of a Holocaust survivor giving his beloved violin to a blossoming music student and the beautifully inclusive and tender animated Room on a Broom.

Save Sunday April 8 at 2:00 for our next Movies and Memories event and join us for this meaningful dementia and family friendly film series. To make sure you know about the series, sign up for the library’s newsletter at http://www.kclibrary.org/newsletter/special-events-signup  We’ll be part of the Kansas City Film Festival—visit Kansas City FilmFest to learn more about their line up. Want to help us spread the word or have an idea for a great movie to show? Just email Deborah at myinfo@pobox.com

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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My Mom’s New Holiday Tradition: Smiling

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We roll into the memory care facility’s dining room just as the show is ready to start. The singer, Thelda, kicks off her shoes and presses play on the boom box. Above the cheerful sound track, she sings Jingle Bells. She dances across the room with the remnants of ballroom steps. She stops in front of Mom and sings right to her. She gets on her knees, so she can look into Mom’s eyes, and keeps singing. Mom notices her and smiles a little.

Thelda moves on, singing to each of the patients gathered around, so intent on making a connection that she often forgets the words.

“Is it all right for your Mom to come to Christmas holiday events?” the activity director had asked me, when Mom moved in.

“Yes, I’d like her to go to any activities. She likes the extra energy.”

I think Mom would approve of my decision, even though she has never celebrated Christmas. Growing up, her immigrant mother held on to the Jewish spirit of her home, kneading dough for Friday evening challah, observing each holiday and prayer period in her own way. Some orthodox women followed the religious law that commanded a small piece of the dough be burned as an offering to God. My grandmother was poor; she did not believe in burning good food, regardless of tradition. So she sacrificed a portion of the dough to her youngest daughter, my mother Fran. She created a “bread tail,” leftover dough that she baked, then smeared with butter and sprinkled with sugar . When Mom used to talk about her mother, she always mentioned this special treat.

Even when I was growing up, and we were the only Jewish family in our neighborhood, my mother still did not sing Christmas song. She let the holiday rush by her, like a large train, whooshing past and leaving her behind.

Now, I am singing Christmas carols to my Mom for the first time and she is smiling. She has moved beyond the place where the religions are different, beyond the place where she wants to separate the dough and make a sacrifice for tradition. Her new tradition is anyone who can make her smile.

With each song, from White Christmas, to Silver Bells, to Frosty the Snowman, Thelda moves back to Mom, tapping her, acting sillier and sillier. Each time, Mom lifts her head and widens her mouth for a second.

For her finale, Thelda puts on a big red nose and sings Rudolph. When she dances in front of Mom with that scarlet nose, Mom laughs, her face a miracle in pure enjoyment. I laugh too, so delighted to see Mom engaged and absorbed.

Two weeks from now, I will bring a menorah and candles into my mother’s room. My father and I will have a short Chanukah ceremony with Mom. She will pick at the shiny paper covering the Chanukah gelt (chocolate candy disguised as money). She will slump over in her chair. But she will come back to life when she sees me, her only daughter, wearing a big red nose as I light the menorah.Here’s to a meaningful and fun holiday season.

I look forward to connecting with you when I resume blogging in early January.

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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