Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s Disease’

The Scent of Creativity: Three Reasons to Add Aromas into Your Life

Madeline could barely sleep at night. She was worried her husband would wake up confused and wander off, so she kept her hand on his chest all night. Her grown children, concerned about her exhaustion, called Jayne Clairmont, owner of English Rose Suites, a dementia consulting and home care business. Jayne listened sympathetically to Madeline’s story and offered a simple solution.

“Place a few drops of pure lavender oil in his navel or on the bottom of his feet before bed,” she advised. lavender

Jayne has shared the powers of essential oils in her national speaking and consulting. She collaborated with Health Partners on a study of 26 memory care residents. The study showed that lavender drops, administered externally before bed, added 43 extra minutes to the sleep cycle. Some sleeping pills only provide an additional 13 minutes of sleep.

For Jayne, understanding essential oils is a simple way to deepen comfort and connection. She starts by learning more about the person living with dementia, so she best knows how to support him. She listens for issues, such as restless sleep, anxiety, or exhaustion. Then she offers a few easy aromatherapy solutions.

“Lavender also induces calm,” Jayne says. She recommends lavender essence for foot massages. When people are pacing and anxious, Jayne suggests a few drops of soothing lavender on a silk flower that they can hold and sniff or wear as a boutonniere.

For someone who’s struggling to stay alert, a few drops of peppermint applied with a warm cloth may help. Jayne may add drops of peppermint to water and use a diffuser or spray bottle to mist the air.

essential oilsCitrus scents, such as orange and lemon, enhance appetite and help people wake up.

“Essential oils benefit both the care partner and the person living with dementia,” Jayne says. “Keep it simple. Don’t use too many oils and don’t use too much of any oil.”

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

Six Easy Steps for Creating Art that Sends a Message

Art is the only way to run away without leaving home.                  ~Twyla Tharp

Reverend Katie Norris knows firsthand the power of a welcoming environment. She has learning disabilities and works better in a room free of distractions. When her mom, Carolyn Farrell, was diagnosed with dementia, Katie turned to art as a way to deepen their connection. Her art projects were so satisfying that she wrote a book, Creative Connections in Dementia Care, offering simple and meaningful ideas for engaging through the arts.

Katie grew up going to Montessori schools where everything had a place and the work area was clean. She flourished in that environment and realized her mom would flourish as well.

To prepare the room, Katie removed (or minimized) clutter. She added a lamp to increase the light and reduce shadows. She used brightly colored tablecloths so it was easy to see thetablecloth art paper.

Creating note cards is one of Katie’s favorite projects, since they are fun and easy, and result in a tangible, useful gift. If you have time, you can make a card in advance, so you’ll have an example to share. This is a relaxing activity for people of all abilities and does not require an artistic temperament. The complete recipe for notecards is in Katie’s book.

  • To begin, set out the materials.
  • Fold paper into the desired size. Or you can buy blank cards and envelopes at a hobby store.
  • Decide if you each want to make your own cards. Or you can work together.
  • Use paints or colors to create a free form design. If you’re working with someone who likes more structure, draw some bright lines on the card to form a simple design. They can then paint within and around the design or highlight the picture by outlining it with buttons, glitter, stickers, or paint. Demonstrate the options and leave plenty of space for creative unfolding.
  • Extras include painting the background of the card with a little paint roller, called a brayer brush, adding design with sponge daubers, or gluing on pictures gleaned from old magazines and cards.
  • People also enjoy decorating the envelope.images

The notecards have a variety of uses, depending on the desires of the person living with dementia. You can donate them to churches or children’s hospitals, give them to friends and family, or frame the finished product for display. Or you can send your own notes on it.

“This project works well with an intergenerational group,” Katie says. “We involved our faith community, by asking them to host a button drive for us. That gave us a chance to share the finished products with them.”

Sharing this art helps people understand the vast creativity of those living with dementia.

card

For more information about Katie and her book, visit   www.RevKatieNorris.com

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

 

 

An Old-Fashioned Holiday

This holiday story from Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey celebrates the spiritual aspects of living with dementia.
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When I walk through the doors of the nursing home, I find my mother in her wheelchair, right in front of the medication cart, right behind the central nursing station, where nurses, delivery people, staff and family members congregate. Mom is bent over, her baby doll lying across her lap. When I walk up to her, I ratchet up my energy and widen my smile. I am preparing to clown her into a reaction.

Later my father will ask if I think she recognized me.

“No,” I will have to tell him. “She did not recognize me. But she did smile.”

The smile is important.

My hand waving and head bobbing does its work: Mom does smile, and I can tell she is in her own current version of a good mood.

“Music in the dining room,” the activity board reads, so I wheel her in that direction. An elderly man with a red and white trimmed Santa hat passes us in the hallway.

santa

“Look Mom, there’s Santa,” I tell her.

Having been brought up Jewish, Mom never was all that enthralled with the Claus mythology and she has not changed.

A white-haired woman is in the dining room, busily setting up for the music program. Several patients are already gathered. The woman takes out a microphone, a boom box, an illuminated plastic snowman, and a small silver bell. I continue wheeling Mom down the far corridor, liking the sense of companionship I have from this movement.

As we stroll, a nurse carrying a plate of lettuce walks past us.

“She must have been a good mother,” she says, nodding at the way Mom is holding the baby. “She must still be a good mother.”

“She is,” I say.

I have never really said to my mom, “You were a good mother.”

Now I realize she was.

I can see that Mom is enjoying the ride. She loved movement when she was younger and was far more adventuresome than Dad when it came to airplanes, ski lifts, fast cars, and speedy boats. For her, biting breeze across the face was thrilling, not threatening. Until she became a mother, that is. Then she abandoned her pleasure in the heights and speed and concentrated on making sure we were slow, safe, and centered.

We roll back into the 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. jingle bells

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 from the memory care into the skilled care portion of the nursing home.

“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 smeared with butter and sprinkled with sugar and baked. When Mom used to talk about her mother, she always mentioned this special treat.  challah

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

Now, I am singing Christmas carols to my Mom for the first time. She is smiling, though really not at me. But I am sitting beside her while she is smiling and that makes me happy. 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, nudging her, shaking a bell almost in her face, acting sillier and sillier. Each time, Mom lifts her head and widens her mouth for a second.

white christmas

For her finale, Thelda puts on a big red nose and sings Rudolph. When she dances in front of Mom with that nose, Mom laughs. For several minutes, Mom stays fixated on the scarlet nose, her face a miracle in pure enjoyment. I laugh too, so delighted to see Mom engaged and absorbed. Then, Thelda dances away and Mom’s face glazes back over.

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. holiday pic

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

An Alzheimer’s Holiday Blessing

As my mother’s Alzheimer’s progressed, her spiritual openness increased.

This is an excerpt from my book Love in the Land of Dementia that describes Mom’s new way of celebrating the holidays.

**

jingle bellsWe roll back into the 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 into the skilled care portion of the nursing home.

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

challahI 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.Fran

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.menorahHere’s to a meaningful and fun holiday season.

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

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Drawing out the Inner Artist: Seven Tips for Engaging People who have Dementia

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso

Sharing the arts is one of our passions. We so appreciate the insightful work of Michael Samuels, M.D., co-founder and director, Arts as a Healing Force. These are his words, which originally appeared in the Huffington Post:art

Anyone can use the healing power of art to reach a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease. All it takes is an ordinary person who loves and cares for another. A recent article in the Boston Globe says, “Making music, painting or dancing — and seeing or hearing it — may be the most effective treatment for dementia to date.”

There has been new exciting research about art and Alzheimer’s that sheds light on this remarkable way of healing. Music and art stimulate areas of the brain not affected by Alzheimer’s and accesses memories through routes that avoid affected language centers. Art actually helps the brain navigate new neurological communication pathways. Even if the Alzheimer’s patient is unresponsive and can’t remember where they are, a song can stimulate the sweet memories of youth that lay long buried.neuro

Any art that the Alzheimer’s patient enjoys will open a huge new way of healing — for yourself and for the one you love.

TIPS:

You can do it. Professional training is not necessary; anyone can be an artist/healer for a person living with Alzheimer’s.

Keep it simple. Music is the easiest and most researched way to reach a person with Alzheimer’s but you also can use painting, sculpting and poetry. Gear your art to the person’s skill level at the moment.

kissGo into the past to heal the present. Art evokes memories. Any art that brings up a memory is powerful. A song from a past event evokes the memory of a first kiss. A painting or photograph of the family home can help evoke childhood memories.

Make it stimulating. Choose bright colors, collage from old photograph albums, lively music, dances.

Make art in a sacred space. Make the place as wonderful and beautiful as you can. Play soft music in the background — make the lighting bright enough to see easily, add scents from aroma therapy and even make a small altar with loved objects from the past.

Support with loving kindness and compassion. Make all your comments nonjudgmental and loving. Art and healing is about process, not the product. It’s all about love and relationship.

Ask them to tell you the story about the artwork. If your loved one can still speak ask them to share the memories that come with the art, music or words. art making

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, music and art can enrich the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease by allowing for self-expression and engagement even after dementia has progressed. Many organizations are using the power of art to help those living with Alzheimer’s. The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) has an annual art contest at senior centers to encourage elderly people to stimulate their brains by making art. The I’m Still Here Foundation started Artists for Alzheimer’s initiative (ARTZ) that helps more than 10,000 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients attend arts events. This greatly enhances the lives of Alzheimer’s patients and reduces their symptoms.

Michael Samuels, M.D.Co-founder and director, Arts as a Healing Force

MICHAEL SAMUELS M.D. is a physician, artist, guided imagery specialist, and one of the foremost experts in body, mind, and spirit medicine today. He is the co-founder and director of Arts as a Healing Force. Samuels teaches at San Francisco State University’s Institute of Holistic Studies and is the author of 22 books, including the bestsellers The Well Body Book, Seeing with the Mind’s Eye, and the Well Baby Book. His latest book is HEALING WITH THE ARTS: A 12-Week Program to Heal Yourself and Your Community, co-authored by Mary Rockwood Lane, R.N., Ph.D.51ANvRyTJWL._SX258_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_