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Posts Tagged ‘dance’

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.

“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.”

 

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.

Tune in to the Benefits of Music: Four Noteworthy Tips

This morning, “My Girl” is playing in my head. Yesterday’s tune was “You are my Sunshine.” Music has always woven through my life, a gift from my father, who in his earlier years, worked as a DJ at various radio stations.

Music often worked its magic with my mother during her Alzheimer’s journey. This short excerpt from my story, Bringing Magic to Life, takes place in a memory care unit.

***

Rochelle sticks in another tape and soon Stardust is playing.

Mom looks up and I offer her my hand.

“Want to dance?” I ask her.

“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. …

***

Four Ways to Inspire Melodic Moments

Dr. Glenn Smith, a board-certified clinical neuropsychologist who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease, recently wrote about Alzheimer’s and music in the Mayo Clinic newsletter. (MayoClinic.com)

He writes:

“Limited research suggests that listening to music can benefit people who have Alzheimer’s disease in various ways.

For example, music can:

  • Relieve stress
  • Reduce anxiety and depression
  • Reduce agitation

Music can also benefit caregivers by reducing anxiety, lightening the mood and providing a way to connect with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease — especially those who have difficulty communicating.”

Here are a few of his suggestions:

  • Think about your loved one’s preferences. What kind of music does your loved one enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in his or her life? Involve family and friends by asking them to suggest songs or make playlists.
  • Avoid overstimulation. When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Set the volume based on your loved one’s hearing ability. Opt for music that isn’t interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.
  • Encourage movement. Help your loved one to clap along or tap his or her feet to the beat. If possible, dance with your loved one.
  • Pay attention to your loved one’s response. If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often. If your loved one reacts negatively to a particular song or type of music, choose something else.

To learn more about Dr. Glenn, visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/expert-biographies/glenn-smith-ph-d/BIO-20025110

For more about the benefits of music, read Dr. Glenn’s entire article.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/music-and-alzheimers/AN02184

To see our HERO Project that features music, visit

http://thecreativityconnection.com/html/tuning_in.html

You Don’t Need a Partner to Dance: The Power of Personal Writing

Recently I heard author Jill Lepore speak at the KC Public Library. During the Q and A session, someone asked, “Jill, you’re a staff writer for the New Yorker. How did that happen?”

“Well,” said Jill, “you know those cheesy old paintings where the hand of God reaches down through a cloud? It happened like that.”We all have those “hand of God” moments. For me, one such moment was when my friend, author Bernadette Stankard, suggested I send my book to her publisher, Central Recovery Press. I did and they were instantly interested. Just last week, I received the beautiful new edition of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. Soon available, as they say, in “bookstores everywhere.”  

So many hands, human hands, have helped me edit and shape this book and I am grateful to each person who contributed ideas and insights. I am also grateful that I gave myself permission to write these stories.

For me, writing is about learning to dance on the page.

While I write, I picture a woman living in a trailer in North Dakota.  In the evening, she sits in a brown living room, her husband in a lounger watching television, her son sprawled on the floor doing homework.  She picks up my book and is transported, connected to the deeper parts of herself.  When her husband asks, “Why are you crying?” she hands him the open book. The noise of the television blurs as he reads.

“You’re not really a writer until you’ve been published,” a journalism professor once told me.

The more I write, the less I believe him

The tender manuscript goes out, primped and dressed up, clean and on good behavior, ready to meet the right editor. The process of getting published is akin to looking for love: a blend of alchemy, philosophy and fate. For every one of my stories that unfurl themselves in the pages of a magazine, I have a stack of shy sisters, waiting to be invited onto the dance floor so they can reveal their billowy brilliance.

 

I invite myself out onto the dance floor. 

Last week, I received four pieces of mail that weren’t from major utility companies. I knew from the solemn brown of the envelopes that three were rejections. One was a card. Like a good child swallowing medicine before eating cake, I opened each rejection. Two were forms. The third said, “Gee, good story. My ex-girlfriend is also from Kansas.”

The card was from the daughter of my dear friend, who had recently died. As a way of sorting through my own grief, I’d written her daughters a letter, describing how much I admired their mother.

“Dear Deborah,” her daughter wrote me now, “Your letter meant so much to our family. I made copies for my sisters and we are carrying them around in our purses. I read the letter to my cousin in Texas.  We both cried…”

As I read this card, my stack of rejections grew insignificant. I remembered why I want to write: simply, to connect with people.