The Power of the Playlist

img_3138-1Ron and I were already champions of Dan Cohen’s world-changing Music & Memory program, which is featured in Connecting in the Land of Dementia, but we had never met Dan in person. The moment we learned we were going to New York City, we reached out to Dan and he agreed to meet with us.

Dan is a prime example of one collaborative person making a difference for thousands. Eighteen states have already funded Music & Memory rollouts as a best practice approach for care facilities to improve quality of life for persons with dementia. In Toronto, everyone who is diagnosed with dementia receives a free iPod so they can enjoy personalized music. Dan and his team have trained 5000 dementia care managers, who understand how effective this program is. He is currently collaborating with hospitals, hospice, and prisons, as well as long term care communities.

Here is some of the wisdom he shared with us.

“We all need to create our personal play lists now,” Dan says. “Music makes any healthcare encounter better.  Whether you’re waiting in the doctor’s office, going into the hospital, attending rehab, or moving into a care community, you’ll have a more comfortable experience when you are able to listen to favorite songs.”

Click here to listen to Dan Cohen.

Click here to learn more about the Music and Memory program.

Read more about Dan’s programs in Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.  Order your copy from your favorite independent or online bookstore.

CITLOD very small

Love in the Land of Dementia_cover

 

Leave a comment

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Care Partnering, Caregiving, Communication, Creativity, Inspiration, Taking Care of Yourself, The Arts

At Long Last: A Page-Turning Love Story

2005_3_comptxMy hands trembled as I reached out my arms. For three long years I’d been working toward this meeting and yearning for this moment. Now, it was finally here. She was more beautiful than I had imagined, with a pleasing weight, just right for holding, just right for spending long hours with. From a glance, her personality seemed strong and purposeful and yet her warm, colorful exterior told me she would be easy to read.  As she gradually opened up to me, I felt her power, her accessibility, her willingness to share ideas and wisdom. She felt great; she looked great; and she was brimming with exciting new ideas. Three long years and finally, she was in my arms. I hugged her tightly. At last I was holding my new book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together

What makes this book unique? It’s the amazing people who contributed to it. During the writing process, I interviewed dozens of innovators across the globe, gathering ideas that engage the creative spirit so you can continue to experience meaningful moments throughout the dementia journey. These luminaries inspired me every step of the way and I am eager to share their ideas with you.

This book is brimming with easy projects using music, art, movies, cooking, gardening, and more. Here are some of the benefits you can look forward to when you do these activities together: Increased energy and socialization, an improved sense of purpose, reduced anxiety, and chances to express yourselves in new and meaningful ways.

Here’s even more good news about the ideas in this book. They’re adaptable for all ages and abilities, and you don’t need to have any special talents. Simply incorporate them into your daily routine and you’ll enrich your time together.

Marc Wortmann, Executive Director, Alzheimer’s Disease International, called the book “A ‘must read’ for every care partner because it really helps you to look at things differently!”

IMG_2236

If you’re in the Kansas City area, please join us for the book launch on Sunday afternoon, October 9th, at 1:30 for a reception in the Truman Forum at the Plaza Library. The free presentation will begin at 2:00  This lively program, filled with ideas, stories, and songs,  features myself and my partner Ron Zoglin, musical luminaries Rod Fleeman and Cynthia Schroer, and guest speaker Michelle Niedens from the Heart of America Chapter, Alzheimer’s Association.

RSVP 816-701-3407 

For those of you in the Washington DC area, please join us at the free Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Caregiver’s Conference on Thursday September 29. We’ll be presenting there, along with other experts in the field. Click here to register.

We recently heard from several readers, saying, “This book is going to help so many people. I’m recommending it to my friends and colleagues.”

That’s what this is all about: enriching people’s lives through meaningful engagement.

It’s a challenge, bringing a new book into the world and we welcome your ideas and help in spreading the word about the book and the event.

You can order a copy now from Rainy Day Books, our book-seller for the event, or online.

CITLOD largeJPG

Here is some advanced praise:

“A thoughtful and positive guide to the very thing I find myself constantly advocating to doctors, caregivers, and family members—social stimulation and creative arts will limit the need for psychiatric medication and improve the quality of life for those with dementia more than anything else.”   Doug Wornell, MD, Life Solutions Group for Geriatric and Neurological Psychiatry

“Buy this book, read it, highlight what inspires you. As you make notes and bend pages to personalize this guide, you are creating a family treasure.” Carol Bradley Burdock, Founder of Minding Our Elders

“Deborah Shouse provides a great public service by shining light on the numerous creative activities that can meaningfully engage the minds and spirits of persons living with dementia. From personalized music to storytelling, Shouse makes it easy for caregivers to understand the various options they have to help their loved ones navigate through their everyday lives.”  Dan Cohen, MSW  Founding Executive Director, MUSIC & MEMORYsm

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Care Partnering, Caregiving, Communication, Creativity, Inspiration, Relationships, The Arts

An Insider’s Look at Connecting with Music

IMG_4301Encountering fascinating people is always a highlight of our travels. Our recent trip to New York City was dedicated to meeting innovative people in the field of creativity and dementia. I’d interviewed many of these experts for Connecting in the Land of Dementia via telephone or Skype and I was looking forward to learning from them in person.  These are the people who are changing the world and who inspire us to go out there and make our part of the world better.  In the next months, I’ll be sharing some of their wisdom with you.

IMG_4331Marlon Sobol grew up with music and understands its universal healing powers. We visited him at a care community in White Plains, NY, where he works as a full-time music therapist.  We watched in awe as Marlon worked his carefully orchestrated magic. He started with soothing tones from the marimba, moving into singing everyone’s name as a way of connecting with them. Then he played familiar songs to invite singing along. Finally, he added soundtracks of West African and Caribbean music, which inspired the staff and some of the residents to burst into dancing. In honor of our visit, Marlon played and sang, “Going to Kansas City,” which made us leap out of our chairs, sing along and dance.

Here is a tip from Marlon:

“Our names are so important. Music is a way to help people stay connected with their names. I often sing a name as a way of engaging. You can add a name to any simple tune and invite people living with dementia to sing along.”

Click on these shorts videos for other ways to incorporate music and movement into your everyday life.

The power of a name

The power of music and movement

Read more about Marlon’s programs in Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.  Order your copy from your favorite independent or online bookstore.

CITLOD largeJPG

Leave a comment

Filed under Care Partnering, Caregiving, Creativity, Relationships

An Art Lesson in Paris

An integral part of experiencing Paris is looking at art. Chantal Debreu, a psychotherapist, serves as a volunteer and board member of the city’s Action Culturelle Alzheimer. To properly discuss the fascinating programs Chantal and her colleagues designed in collaboration with Musée d’Orsay, Musée de Cluny, and the Château de Versailles, we met at a sidewalk café over croissants and coffee.  imgres

(Note to fellow writers: It is extremely difficult to enjoy a croissant while typing on an iPad. The flakes flutter festively about the keyboard.)

 

 

Art Speaks a Universal Language

“Art is a universal language and looking at art is a wonderful way to access the creative capacities of people living with dementia,” Chantal says. “Looking at and discussing art can also at least temporarily reduce issues such as agitation, depression, apathy, and aggression.”

To facilitate such cultural connections, Chantal and Cindy Barotte, founder of Action Culturelle Alzheimer, created a three-day training program for volunteers, complete with information about dementia, case studies, and role play. Cindy developed a structure for finding meaning in works of art for volunteers and museum educators. The program connects each beneficiary with a trained volunteer who is there for five gallery visits. During the art experience, the caregiver has much-needed respite time.

“The volunteer helps people living with dementia explore their own capacities by supporting them,” Chantal says.

IMG_2035The structure encourages engagement and creative expression. To view the work of art, participants sit in a semi-circle, so they can see and hear each other. The semi-circle creates a sense of group belonging and also blocks out the public. The volunteers sit in back of their person. If the person with dementia feels shy about speaking out, they may turn and share with their volunteer. The volunteer reports the insight to the educator, who shares it with the group.

Art Breaks Ice and Inspires Ideas

The program inspires conversation and ideas. People living with dementia tend to notice the details, but they may not attach a meaning to them. Little by little, the facilitators talk through the elements of the painting, helping them associate and build meaning, so they understand the story of the painting. When they start to make associations, they talk about their experiences. They come away feeling like they are someone; they have ideas and memories to share.

“At the Centre Pompidou, we discussed Bleu, a giant Miro canvas,” says Chantal. “We talked about it for 15 minutes. Everyone was involved and actively engaged in investigating, wondering, and sharing.”

Art Travels with You

Want to bring the Paris art experience home? Here are some tips: imgres-1

  • Select a work of art to comfortably view together, either on-line, from a book, or at a local gallery.
  • As you look, ask open-ended questions, such as, “Why is that woman staring?”
  • Encourage conversation by continuing to ask engaging questions. If someone notices  a bicycle, make an affirming comment about the bicycle and ask “What else do you see?”

“It’s not about telling,” Chantal says. “It’s about asking.”

For more on the international scene, dive into my book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.  Pre-order your signed copy.

CITLOD largeJPG

Leave a comment

Filed under Care Partnering, Caregiving, Communication, Creativity, The Arts

Building London’s Bridge between Dementia and the Community

Imagine a global community of people diligently working to make the world a better place for people who are living with dementia. We met a few of the esteemed people who are making a difference on a recent trip to the United Kingdom and to France. Esther Watts has a passion for creating dementia friendly communities that is contagious. Talking to her gave us a lot of ideas and spurred us onward to collaborate on a dementia-friendly movie event in Kansas City. Plus, her workplace is located near the Thames and after our meeting, she took us to see the Queen’s Golden Barge, which was quietly waiting for its next chance to carry Her Majesty.

imgres

 

London is already one of the world’s great cities and Esther Watts is helping to make it, and other cities throughout England, even better. As coordinator of the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Action Alliance (DAA), she orchestrates policies, events, and activities tailored to people living with dementia.

Esther and a team of Dementia Action friends have contacted bus companies, arts organizations, retailers, sports authorities,and hospitals in behalf of those living with dementia.

“Our goal is to keep people going out in their communities, enjoying new experiences and meeting new people,” Esther says. “We want people to feel comfortable and welcomed.”

 

IMG_0335Royal Ways to Create Community Experiences

She and her team collaborate with some distinguished clients, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, Kew Gardens, the Royal Academy of Arts, historic Royal palaces, such as Hampton Court, and various sports organizations.

One of her projects was a dementia-friendly cricket match. Esther and her team scored free tickets for fans that are living with dementia and their families. They had plenty of trained Dementia Friends on-hand to welcome these fans and escort them into the stadium. There they showed a special short film on the history of cricket and shared items from the cricket museum. For those who needed respite from the excitement of the match, the stadium offered a designated “Quiet Room.”  When London celebrated Dementia Awareness Week, DAA wrote the Society of London theaters, asking for dementia-friendly playgoing experiences.

IMG_0383Advocates pledge to take three action-steps, which can be as simple as visiting a friend who is living with dementia or as complex as creating a self-guided museum tour for people living with dementia.

“Dementia Awareness Week gives a community a focus,” Esther says. “DAA is about what we can do together.”

##

Please share your ideas for action-steps. One of mine is to try to stay in regular touch with friends who are living with dementia.

For more on the international scene, dive into my book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.  Pre-order your signed copy.

CITLOD very small

Leave a comment

Filed under Advocacy, Care Partnering, Caregiving, Communication