Listening to favorite songs. Singing. Conducting an imaginary orchestra. Looking at art. Cooking and baking. Laughing. These are just a few of the topics we discussed when presenting to care partners in St. Thomas.  

Recently we gathered with professional and family care partners, along with friends and advocates, to share ideas for staying connected through the dementia and care partners’ journey.

Everyone lit up as we all thought of favorite songs that carried positive memories. These “personal playlist” songs are the foundation of the internationally acclaimed Music & Memory program (https://musicandmemory.org) developed by Dan Cohen and beautifully documented in the movie Alive Inside. As we moved on to singing, one woman described how her mother still knew all the words to her favorite hymns. Another attendee, who had a daughter with special needs, described how singing allowed her daughter to find and keep her voice. Maestro David Dworkin would have relished the zest with which our group practiced his dynamic Conductorcize program. We sang the melody to When the Saints Come Marching In, and conducted away, raising our arms, our voices, and almost, the roof.

“What about cooking and baking?” one woman asked. “How can my mother continue her passion for those when she can no longer use the stove?” 

Ron and I both identified with that question, as our moms had been avid bakers. We talked about a variety of ways to stay safely engaged in creating food, including setting up a quiet table just outside the kitchen for making dishes together. We discussed the joys of measuring, blending, chopping, and stirring, while carrying on a companionable conversation. Making fruit and vegetable salads, snapping green beans, icing cupcakes, making cookies serve as a few delicious examples. There are so many ways we can adapt hobbies and add in creativity and the arts so all of us can live with meaning and purpose.  ###

Many thanks to Arleen Evans O’Reilly, Sandra Bradley, and their team for hosting us.                               And thanks to Sandra Bradley for taking the photos.

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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We were already in a holiday mood. A layer of sparkling snow blanketed Kansas City. Our generous neighbors at Cosentino’s Market in Brookside donated fresh-baked sugar cookies, colorful frostings, and cheerful sprinkles so our guests could decorate their own holiday cookies. Now we were ready for singing in the season with the Kansas City Symphony at the KC Memory Cafe. 
You’ve probably read about the intimate concerts of earlier times: stellar musicians gathered in a drawing room offering their talents to a small group of esteemed guests. As we settled into the Lower Level of the Plaza Library, a quartet of symphonic musicians assembled to play holiday music just for us. What a treat to nibble on the sweet decadence of sugar cookies while listening to angelic arrangements of holiday favorites. We swayed, we hummed, we sang along, and applauded vigorously as the magical music connected and transported us.
As the musicians launched into Jingle Bells, we heard an extra jingling. It was our own Santa Claus, bringing us his jolly “Ho, ho, ho’s” and a bag of Christmas cheer. We all sang, “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” celebrated our musicians, and had our photos taken with Santa. We left humming and hopeful.#
Thanks to the KC Symphony for the amazing gift of music. Thanks to Cosentino’s Market for the delicious treats. And thanks to our attendees, our Dementia Friendly partners, and our amazing community volunteers. 
We hope you can join us for our 2020 dementia friendly series. Our Movies & Memories program meets the first Wednesday of the month at 10:30 in the Truman Forum of the Plaza Library. We enjoy live music, great movie clips, and delicious popcorn. 
Our KC Memory Cafe meets on the third Tuesday of each month in the lower level of the library. 
Our featured Cafe presenters will include the Kansas City Zoo, the Kansas City Ballet, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, and the The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures. All are welcome. 

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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 “Who prepared this delicious meal?” a friend asked during a holiday dinner.

I named my brother Dan, our head chef, first. Then I included the support team—myself, my mom, my daughters and nephews.

“Did I help?” Mom whispered as I passed her the mashed potatoes.

“You sure did,” I told her. ”You mashed the potatoes, put the marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole, and mixed the fruit salad.”

“That’s good,” she said. “I like to help.”

Our desire to help and contribute to seasonal celebrations doesn’t end with a diagnosis of dementia. It’s lovely to linger in the kitchen together, preparing food for the holidays. It’s even lovelier when you can adapt and enjoy dementia inclusive holiday cooking so that people of varying abilities can participate.

Rebecca Katz, author of The Healthy Mind Cookbook, sees food as a great equalizer, something anyone can enjoy regardless of abilities. Fixing a delicacy for someone offers a tangible and delicious way to give back.

Here are six secrets of dementia Inclusive holiday cooking.

  • Leaf through a favorite family cookbook or recipe box and use the pictures and recipes as a catalyst for conversation. Ask open-ended questions, such as, ”What does that brownie recipe make you think of?” “What do you like about the holiday season?”
  • Chose a time of day when you’re both rested.
  • Create a comfortable kitchen environment, by playing familiar seasonal songs you can both hum or sing along to.
  • Reduce extraneous noise and distractions, such as a television in the background.
  • If you wish, take photos during the experience. That way, you can relive the adventure and share with family and friends.
  • Indulge in instant gratification, if possible, by sampling your work when the cooking is complete.
  • Even if the person living with dementia can’t help prepare food, he can still enjoy sitting in on the action and the conversation.

Whether you’re stirring a pot of orzo or dropping mint leaves into cool water, enjoy your time of creation and connection in the kitchen.

A longer version of this piece originally appeared on Joan Lunden’s excellent website:      Enjoy Dementia Inclusive Holiday Cooking.  Thanks to Sue Fitzsimmons, MS, ARNP, Judith Fertig, author of The Memory of Lemon, Kate Pierce, LMSW, Alzheimer’s Association Greater Michigan Chapter, and Rebecca Katz, author of The Healthy Mind Cookbook

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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First we get people’s toes tapping and hands clapping with live musical performances from some of Kansas City’s great musicians. Then KC Movies & Memories’ new focus on beloved movie musicals keeps our audience engaged and connected. This is a lively,  intergenerational experience that families can easily replicate. Please see our invitation below. 

Our November program delighted guests with an eclectic array of harp music, performed by Juli Sackman. We followed that with the story of the award-winning movie Oklahoma, punctuated by lively song and dance numbers. Here is the link to that experience. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56FbaPmCIbQ&feature=youtu.be 

In December, we were wowed by Indian Hills Middle School eighth grade choir. They entertained us with intricate renditions of holiday tunes. Then, Jim Poplau, manager of the Waldo Library, shared one of his favorite holiday films, White Christmas. Watching the 1954 trailer of the film, in Vista-Vision, reminded many of the rare childhood treat of attending the cinema. Jim regaled us with the complicated plot of the film and shared some of the beloved songs, including Sisters, Count Your Blessings and of course White Christmas, which we all sang along with. 

Here’s a link to that experience:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jN2p3vw3jyI&t=13s 

Invitation: If you’d like to add some musical movie offerings to your holiday gathering, simply email us at creativity@pobox.com and we’ll send you a PDF featuring YouTube song clips and scripts you can modify for your family.  These Movies-in-a Minute are courtesy of the Kansas City Public Library and The Creativity Connection.

Here’s to a lovely and meaningful holiday season.

 

 

 

 

 

What we look for in our dementia-friendly films.

  • Uplifting content
  • A straightforward narrative that’s easy to follow.
  • A subject matter that people might identify with
  • No violence and a minimum of startling or loud noises 
  • No subtitles or complicated foreign accents
  • Familiar or soothing music

 

Please join us for our Holiday Memory Cafe…

 

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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There is something wonderfully connective about watching silent comedies by two of the world’s greats—Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton. Those black and white classics make you want to laugh, reminisce, and act a little silly yourself. And when there’s a pianist on hand, punctuating the wit and melodrama, the experience is even more compelling. Those silent films inspired peals of laughter at August’s KC Movies & Memories at the Plaza Library.

First, our guest musician, Kenny Harrison, engaged us in a lively sing-a-long. Then we watched One Week, a Buster Keaton masterpiece. Thomas Cooke is a retired professor of film. He and his wife Deborah spent hours previewing the iconic comedians, picking out three clips just for our program. For anyone who has ever tried to repair or build anything, this short film is a must. Next, Charlie Chaplain entertained us with Oceana Roll. “Charlie’s friends wanted him to do the roll dance every time he dined with them,” Thomas told us. Finally, we were on the edges of our seats with a clip from Modern Times. Note: Roller skate indoors at your own peril. 

Click here to enjoy some moments from this entertaining event.

In between films, we talked about the movies and how we related to them. One of our guests was a carpenter. Others had experiences with home repairs. We all marveled when Thomas told us that Keaton did all his own stunts. 

The movies stayed on our minds for several days. In fact, at dinner two nights later, we tried with Oceana fork dance with cucumbers.  (Where are the dinner rolls when you need them?) It was a lot harder than it looked. 

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

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 tables are scattered with pine cones, sycamore leaves, and decorative branches, along with bottles of glue, vivid construction paper, and pots of colorful paint. Our KC Memory Cafe begins with sharing memories of camping, scouting, or outdoor activities. Then a lively group of Girl Scouts leads us in song, reminding us to, “Make new friends, But keep the old, One is silver, And the other gold.” 

After our singalong, cafe guests experiment with the art supplies and natural objects. They dip pine cones into red paint and brush blue across crusty leaves. They paint a stick bright orange and wrap it with yarn. The Girl Scouts weave through the artists, pouring extra paint, distributing additional papers, and assisting when asked. The guests work, admire, chat, and laugh as these creative projects emerge. By the end of the cafe, the tables are covered with innovative art and people are smiling as they return home. 

Click here for a look at our cafe.

 

Want to introduce more nature into your lives?

“Research shows that nature-based activity is therapeutic and is essentially a form of treatment for dementia symptoms, helping a person remain at home longer,” says Garuth Chalfont PhD, American Society of Landscape Architects, and author of the. Dementia Green Care Handbook.       

Gathering flowers, walking a tree-lined sidewalk, plucking a cherry tomato off its vine, watering a house plant, gazing out the window at chickadees—these meaningful natural activities increase pleasure, relaxation, social interactions, and sensory stimulation. 

Here are a few other ideas:

• Create observation spots in your living space so you can enjoy looking outdoors. Even watching the weather helps people feel engaged in the natural environment.

• Improve your view with interesting additions, such as bird feeders and birdhouses, bubbling fountains, wind chimes, wind spinners, outdoor sculpture, and various plants and herbs. 

• Add resilient plants to your home.

• Bring in natural objects to touch, identify, arrange, draw and craft with. 

• Visit garden centers, parks, playgrounds, and zoos for a rich natural experience.

• Increase your popularity by taking a dog with you on a walk, either your own or borrow your neighbor’s pup. 

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

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 wizard, a peasant, a royal hat maker, and a royal candy maker walked into the Plaza Library. But they were not here to check out books on their respective trades: they were with several other RenFest stars, eager to present at the KC Memory Cafe. 

Mia Moore shared the inside story of getting into her complicated costume as the Renfest character of Molly William, Lady Steward of the Household. First, she slipped on a gauzy white under-blouse with an appealing ruff around the neck. Then, she created a luscious hour-glass shape by putting on a corset. In the olden days, the corsets were made with whale bones. But Mia was ecologically correct and chose industrial cables for hers. A wide brown skirt, made of upholstery materials, was next, followed by a lady’s doublet, with dozens of small fabric covered buttons. Getting all buttoned up took at least ten minutes, and she kept us quite entertained throughout the process. Her final adornment was a jaunty hat.

Click here to get the RenFest inside story.

“It wouldn’t be proper to go around with my hair uncovered. Plus, during the Renaissance, people didn’t bathe that often. Their hair might be dirty and lice-ridden, which the hat kindly covered,” she told us.

As each of the performers shared information about their characters, we could feel their passion for history and for this fascinating time period. 

The wizard assured us, he would never walk about London with his high pointed burlap hat and his quartz-topped staff; for that, he would have been locked up in a mental hospital. Instead, he would have lived in a rural setting and been considered an alchemist. The peasant told us, “The amount of cloth in a middle class woman’s skirt would be enough for me and my family for a year.”  

Cloth was quite valuable and all fabrics were recycled and passed down, mended and amended until they were nothing but scraps. 

How often does a person have a chance to touch an ostrich feather fan or stroke the soft pink velvet of the royal candy maker’s doublet? Our performers walked about the room, greeting individuals, sharing stories about their characters and clothing, and letting us examine their specially made costumes.

It was a glorious experience, rich with history, energy, and imagination.

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

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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“When You Laugh, you change, 

and when you change the whole world changes.” 

          -Dr Madan Kataria, MD, Founder Laughter Yoga Movement

 

We were warmly welcomed into a parlor area, reminiscent of an elegantly aging aunt’s apartment. A piano waited patiently along one wall. There was a colorful bowl of fruit and a tempting array of pastries and fruit-infused waters. As we waited, we looked out into an outdoor garden and picnic area.  The 80th Street Residency, a memory care community in Manhattan, created a warm, home-like atmosphere for its residents. Ron and I had come here to offer a laughter yoga class, hoping to boost our participants’ health and happiness. We worked with their activities coordinator, Jackie LaBau.

Here’s what we’ve learned about laughter yoga: often people look, act, and feel differently after they’ve experienced a session. There is a magic about intentionally laughing with a group. The experience of breathing, clapping, engaging in playful imaginings, and of course, laughing, soon softens the spirits. People feel energetic and connected.  Everyone, including staff, residents, and us, leave feeling happier. That’s what happened  in New York,  just as it has every time Ron and I have led laughing sessions.  

Back home in Kansas City, we laughed with the lively people at Jeanne’s Place, CareHaven’s day program for people living with early stage dementia. We have laughed with these wonderful folks before, and now they start giggling when we walk in. 

We also visited Mandy Shoemaker and her team at Prairie Eider Care, our area’s only Eden Alternative homes, and we had fun admiring their outdoor barnyard collection of silky chickens, a potbellied pig, and sassy ducks. Then we settled into their welcoming living areas.  We sat in intergenerational circles with staff, family members, and residents, talking, singing, and laughing.

Dr. Kataria, the founder of Laughter Yoga, believes that inviting out our childlike energy and acting playfully is vital to living a balanced and healthy life. Plus, it’s tremendous fun. He says: “Laughter Yoga is an aerobic workout that helps uplift your mood within minutes by releasing endorphins from your brain cells. You often remain energized, relaxed, and in good spirits throughout the day. Laughter also makes our immune system stronger, increases oxygen intake, and reduces stress. Plus laughing with others builds a social bond and reduces feelings of isolation.”

In our groups, we created laughter milkshakes, with each person choosing their favorite flavor of ice cream. We looked at each other, waved, and laughed. We had a lot of dog lovers in our groups, so we imagined how a chihuahua would laugh. A member of the nursing team loved large dogs and she helped us to guffaw like a Great Dane. Most of our group loved baseball, so we sang, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” then substituted the words with “Ha Ha “ syllables, otherwise known as the Ha Ha Chorus. That chorus works for any familiar song and tickles your funny bone.

Ron and I learned Laughter Yoga from the amazing Robert Rivest, who is a master trainer and who studied with Dr. Kataria. But you don’t need to be a trained facilitator to bring more laughter into your life.

Quick Tips for Adding Laughter into the Day

•Look at the clock and laugh for one minute.

•When driving, laugh during red lights.

•When working out, pick a couple of exercises, such as squats and curls, and laugh while you’re doing them. (Want to get others laughing? Do this at the gym!)

•Use the “ha ha chorus” to bring giggles into your life. Take any song and substitute “ha ha ha’s” for the words. This works well in the shower, car, on walks and more.

Want to laugh more? 

Visit laughteryoga.org and robertrivest.com 

Contact Deborah Shouse and Ron Zoglin: 816-361-7878  Email myinfo@pobox.com Website: DemeniaJourney.org

If you are part of a memory care community in the KC area and you’d like to gift your residents with laughter, feel free to reach out to us at creativity@pobox.com 

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

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 buzz of conversation ceased as singer/actor Robert Gibby Brand stepped up to the microphone. His accompanist, pianist Robert Pherigo, played the opening bars of Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and Brand soared into the “Bright golden haze on the meadow.” Instantly the audience, ages two to 85 plus, was listening raptly. Brand continued his concert, inviting us to sing along on It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, and melting us with the Cole Porter classic Night and Day. Brand told us the story behind each song and left us wildly applauding after performing Some Enchanted Evening.  It was some enchanted beautiful morning at the monthly KC Movies & Memories program. 

But the enchantment didn’t stop there. First we watched the Oscar nominated short, Room on the Broom, which illustrated the joys and challenges of inclusion in a most creative, playful, and poignant way. 

One of the characters said plaintively, “I am a bird, as green as can be. Is there room on the broom, for a bird like me?” The witch’s clingy cat captured that part in most of us that doesn’t want to share, that believes there is not enough. But the witch reminded us, “Yes, there is room.”

Afterwards we discussed the movie, asking who identified with the clingy cat. All of us had to raise our hands. Then we asked who identified with the witch, who welcomed everyone, and there was a large showing of hands.  We also talked about favorite characters and what parts of the film we liked best.  

 

 

To finish our mini film-fest, we played an inspiring clip from a Mr. Rogers show, and showed Purl, an 8-minute Pixar film, about how our differences can enrich our lives. 

It was an inspiring program and everyone left uplifted and delightfully sated by our fresh-made popcorn and other treats.

For a taste of Some Enchanted Beautiful Morning, click here. 

A big thanks to our volunteers, Sharon, Julie, and Pam, and to our generous hosts, The Plaza Library.  

Want to continue the magic at home?

Room on the Broom is a 20-minute  film that is fun for all ages, while being both entertaining and profound. You can easily generate open-ended questions and invite comments and conversation. We talked about, “If you were an animal, which animal would you like to be?” “Who did you identify with?” “What were your favorite parts of the movie?” “Have you ever not wanted to share?”

Want to continue the magic with us?  Mark your calendars for the first Wednesday of each month at 10:30. Please join us for our next cafe and our next movie program.  For more information, contact Deborah at creativity@pobox.com 

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

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 group pauses in front of a large contemporary sculpture, depicting a preacher standing before his congregation at a small country church.  They walk around the piece, noticing the pews, the organist, and the variety of parishioners, and chatting as they view. Then they settle into chairs and co-facilitator Esther Smith asks: “What is one word that comes to mind when you look at this piece of art.”

 

“Boring,’ says one woman.

“What makes it boring?” Esther asks.

“It brings me back to my childhood, when I was stuck in church for hours,” she answers. “I was so bored.”

A few others nod. Someone asks, “When was this made? Where is it from?” and the conversation about the art continues.

Every month at the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, Teaching Artist Esther Smith guides a group of care partners and people living with dementia on a 90-minute gallery exploration called Musings Together. 

“It’s a light-hearted, interactive experience,” Esther says. “We go at a slow pace, seeing only three to four works each time. We want people to have a comfortable, personalized experience with art.”

The open-ended conversation brings out people’s stories and ideas. Sitting in front of Giovanni Bellini’s Madona and Child, Esther asks, “What lines do you notice in this painting? Trace them in the air with your hand.”

After people trace their lines, she asks, “What line was most interesting to you?” That question might lead into a discussion of what makes this painting different. Then Esther might invite the group to pose like the picture. She might say, “How would that baby’s head feel in your hand?”

“These simple prompts launch us into deep conversations,” Esther says. She and her team are experimenting with expanding the sensory experience, including bringing out oranges when they’re gazing at a still life of fruit and letting each guest hold and examine the orange. Esther also invites people to occasionally sketch an aspect of a drawing that appeals to them, using a drawing pad on a clipboard. 

“ A number of our participants have never been regular museum-goers. Now they feel comfortable here and come more often,” Esther says. “Developing a new community of friends and an expanding interest in art enriches their lives.”    #

Want to look at art with someone who is living with dementia?

If you’re visiting a museum, focus on a gallery with 3-4 large and interesting pieces. Ask a docent for advice, if needed. If you’re at home, give yourself plenty to time to comfortably view a few works of art on-line or in books. 

  • Bring a folding chair, so you can sit.
  • Chose a time of day when your partner is energetic and the gallery is relatively quiet.
  • Have fun just noticing the aspects of the piece. You might invite comments on colors, textures, familiar figures, objects that seem odd to you, and other aspects. 
  • Ask open-ended questions, such as, “What does this piece make you think of?” “What do you like about this piece?” “How do you think that main guy feels?” 

When attention wanes, move onto something else, including a lovely coffee or tea break.   

Click to view informative and inspiring short videos on our YouTube channel

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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