“We are here to explore meaningful ways to stay connected throughout the dementia journey. We are all going to take what we’ve learned and we need the commitment of all of you to help us reach out to the families living with dementia in our communities,” Raymond Jessurun said when he introduced us at a gathering of healthcare professionals, family caregivers, and government representatives. Raymond, who is Secretary of the St. Maarten Alzheimer’s Foundation, is a passionate and inspiring speaker. He urged everyone to join as volunteers of the Alzheimer’s Foundation to spread the meaningful engagement throughout the island, making a difference, one island at a time.
As a group we discussed many engaging activities, including the joy of singing, the nurturing that animals can offer, the power of looking at art, and the creative conversations that cooking together can inspire. We strategized adding more laughter into the day and the importance of knowing each person’s musical preferences. We were also learned of the challenges family caregivers face, which in residential settings as in the Sint Martin’s Home are being addressed by professional caregivers.
Our host, Bregje Boetekees, Director of the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation in St. Maarten, was deeply tuned into the importance of offering an array of individualized activities and to the comfort that nature brings to those who are living with dementia. She is overseeing the construction of a new elderly care facility with a large courtyard that will offer safe and ready outdoor access, as well as fertile ground for gardening and other nature-based activities.
As always, we left feeling inspired by each of the people we met. Bregje and her team are constantly exploring ways to enrich the lives of their residents who are living with dementia. Raymond and the board members of the Foundation are an example of how a few compassionate and determined people can make a difference. Just eight years ago, Raymond was struggling to find his mother-in-law the dementia care she needed. His advocacy attracted other caregivers and this year their Foundation, which is recognized by Alzheimer’s Disease International, celebrates its seventh year of serving the community. In June, Raymond is co-coordinating a gathering of leaders of Alzheimer’s organizations of 15 Caribbean countries as a step to forming Alzheimer’s Caribbean. These advocates are making a difference, one caregiver at a time, one facility at a time, one island at a time.
We invited everyone to join us in Dr. Madan Kataria’s Ha Ha chorus. Watch this and please, sing and laugh along. Click here to view the St. Maarten HaHa Chorus
For more about Laughter Yoga, visit Madan Kataria’s website, http://laughteryoga.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.