Posts Tagged ‘Natasha Goldstein-Levitas’

Dementia Friendly Holiday Activities

Dementia Friendly Holiday Activities

At first, the checklist of “can’t do’s” was daunting. No more playing the cutthroat card game Hearts. No more leisurely Scrabble sessions, unabridged dictionary, and bowl of fancy mixed nuts at the ready. No more hunkering in at the movie theater for a sparkling new release. With my mom’s dementia, so many of our traditional holiday activities simply wouldn’t work. So we had to think creatively and find new dementia friendly holiday activities.moment-clipart-0000067

We created a photography/collaging/ scrapbooking project with a Thanksgiving themed story that starred all of us, The Little Kitchen that Could. I wrote up a simple story that featured a world famous chef, my brother, a series of sous chefs, the rest of the family, and my terrified pots and pans. Terrified because after a quiet life of heating up an occasional cup of water for tea, they were being forced into actual cooking. We all pasted faces on the pots and pans, posed for photos, and added ideas to the storyline. Once we developed the pictures, we sat around the dining room table and put the scrapbook together, while listening to my parent’s favorite old 40s melodies, and eating our traditional fancy mixed nuts.

This project gave our gatherings a new focus, helped us adapt treasured traditions and transition to new dementia friendly holiday activities we could all enjoy. Plus, we made copies of the booklet to share with long distance family and friends.

Adding “traditions” enriched our family gatherings. Here are some additional ideas to cheer on your family.

  • musicCreate a holiday play list to cheer you all on. If you’re prone to winter blues, include songs that brighten your spirits. If you don’t celebrate the holiday, use favorite winter or seasonal songs. Listen to these songs with your partner who has dementia and with family and friends.
  • Create a large print sing-along book for seasonal songfests. Include family favorites, personal seasonal tunes, and other tunes that are fun to sing or hum to.
  • Invite talented relatives or friends to share their musical or dance abilities.
  • If your partner likes animals, invite well behaved pets to come to your gatherings, offering a creature to nurture and observe and admire.
  • Create a family “giving back” project you can all be part of, so your partner is able to contribute to others. This can be as simple as icing cookies for a women’s shelter or making dog biscuits for an animal shelter.
  • Share favorite poems, by reading them call-and- response, one person reading, “T’was the night before Christmas,” and others repeating the line. Create your own family poem, as something to include in your holiday card or on your social media.
  • 26951-laughing-is-the-best-exerciseAdd in laughter. Use the ha ha chorus, substituting “ha ha’s” for the words of favorite songs. You’ll find yourself chucking within seconds.
  • Arrange flowers together for a centerpiece, paying attention to colors, textures and aromas. Set the table together.
  • Play favorite music and talk about it, saying, “What does that song remind you of?”
  • Create a Taste Book, a scrapbook of favored recipes and memories around these foods. Plan to make or bake a recipe or two together.

Several esteemed experts and organizations helped me create this list of dementia friendly holiday activities. For more information about their, visit:

Natasha Goldstein-Levitas, MA, BC-DMT   natashagoldstein.com

Dan Cohen  Music and Memory

Gary Glazner  Alzheimer’s Poetry Project

Dr. Madan Kataria  Laughter Yoga

The team at the  Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Nettie Harper and Kelly Gilligan  Inspired Memory Care, Inc.

Judith Fertig, novelist and cookbook author  Judith Fertig

DementiaJourney.org

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 Marvels of Movement 

Dancing is like dreaming with your feet!  ~Constanze

 

During my mom’s dementia journey, movement often inspired and connected us. Here is one of those magical moments, excerpted from my book, Love in the land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. The story is set in my mom’s memory care unit.

**

Rochelle, the activity director, sticks in another tape and soon Stardust is playing. images

“Let’s dance,” she says, motioning everyone to stand.

Mom looks up and I offer her my hand.

“Want to dance?” I ask her.

“What?”

“Want to dance?” I repeat, making a swirling motion.

“What else,” she says, standing up.

My parents have danced to this song many times, my mother coaxing my father onto the dance floor. I hold hands with Mom and move back and forth to the music. She laughs and does the same. I twirl her, and she walks around in a jaunty little circle. For a moment, her energy and charm have returned. I feel like I have found my long-lost mother. If my father were here, he would not be surprised. He is certain she will return to him and takes every word, every gesture of affection, every smile as a sign of hope.

“Hope is everything,” Dad told me just last week. “I find something hopeful and I milk it for all it’s worth. If it doesn’t work out, then I search for something else. Otherwise, I am in despair.”

I twirl my mom again. It is actually our first real dance together …

***

I loved my dance with my mother for the deep connection it gave me. My friend Natasha Jen Goldstein-Levitas reminds me of the other benefits of movement.  Natasha is a Philadelphia, PA based Registered Dance/Movement Therapist (R-DMT) and Reiki Practitioner who does heartfelt and creative work with those living with dementia.  She writes: “Among the creative arts therapy modalities, dance/movement therapy (DMT) offers the opportunity for individuals to express themselves, regardless of functional level. DMT engages the sensory systems and stimulates the physical, emotional, and cognitive areas of functioning. This movement is also a wonderful outlet for care partners.”

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Samuel Beckett sums this up, He says, “Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.”

To read Natasha’s blog, please visit:

http://blog.adta.org/category/creative-arts-therapy/

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

Using Movement Therapy to Engage the Brain and Ignite Imagination and Conversation

 “We see in order to move; we move in order to see.”  — William Gibson

Seven people circle around the brightly colored piece of cloth, holding its edges and shaking it to the beat of I Love You For Sentimental Reasons.

“What does this fabric remind you of?” asks Natasha Goldstein-Levitas a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania based registered dance/movement therapist who reguarly works with these memory care residents.

“We’re shaking out a tablecloth,” one woman says, giving the cloth a brisk tug.

“We’re hanging clothes outside to dry,” says another.

“We’re cutting up onions for potato salad,” says another.

“When might we eat potato salad?” Natasha asks.4th of july

“A Fourth of July picnic,” a man answers.

Everyone lowers the cloth to the floor and they discuss who might be at the picnic. Perhaps an old friend, a brother, a spouse, a grandchild. When the conversation wanes, Natasha moves around the circle, offering each person a squirt of coconut-scented hand sanitizer and rubbing it into their palms. As Natasha gently massages the fragrant lotion into the hands of a woman who rarely talks or participates, Natasha asks, “What does this fragrance mind you of.”

The woman looks right at her and says, “Hawaii.”

Inviting People Into the Movement

“Any kind of movement can stimulate memory and creativity,” Natasha says. “Movement therapy is based on the principle that the mind and body are connected. It’s about helping the person feel empowered. I try to capitalize on the strengths of each person. We celebrate small successes, even if it’s just on making eye contact, taking deeper breaths, and saying a word.”

She concentrates on simple and focused movements, such as opening and closing the fingers and stretching arms overhead. She narrates every movement and frequently reminds people to breathe deeply.

clementinesSometimes food is integral to the movement. Natasha brings in a basket of Clementines and asks each person to choose one. They hold the fruits, gently squeezing them. They notice how each piece of fruit is unique. Natasha asks questions, such as. “What other orange objects can you think of? What does the aroma remind you of?” While they talk, they massage their arms by rolling the Clementine’s up and down.

In addition to physical movement, Natasha’s activities engage the senses, incorporating textures, aromas, colors, sounds, and tastes.         #

Natasha Goldstein-Levitas, 
R-DMT is a Registered Dance/Movement Therapist with over 14 years of experience working with high functioning to severely cognitively and physically impaired adults and older adults. Natasha’s recent writing will appear as a chapter in: Brooke, S.L. & Myers, C.E. (Eds.). (In press). The use of the creative therapies in treating grief/loss.   http://natashagoldstein.com/

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