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.

CITLOD very smallLove in the Land of Dementia_cover

 

 

The people of St. Thomas have been through a lot and many are still recovering from Hurricane Maria. But despite the hardships, they were ready to laugh for health and happiness. We were delighted to be working with our friend Arleen Evans O’Reilly, Director of the Family Caregiver Support Program, offering a laughter yoga class in St. Thomas. We met at the senior center and had a wonderful time facilitating laughter with seniors, caregivers, and people who are living with dementia. CLICK HERE to  experience a glimpse of our session.

We have been experimenting with making our laughter sessions increasingly interactive. We invited our attendees to suggest ingredients for the stew and it included chicken, pumpkin, onions, carrots, potatoes, and bullion. After we added and stirred, we tasted and it was both delicious and “funny” tasting. 

For our milkshake, we first asked people what ice cream they want to use. We had a lot of chocolate lovers. A few enjoyed vanilla and strawberry. We also had fans of praline cream, banana, and cherry Garcia. We held an imaginary container in one hand and we poured milk with the other hand and and said, “Ha ha ha.” After doing that three times, we scooped in our ice cream three times, adding in laughter syllables. Then, with both hands, we shook and laughed. Finally, we tasted and enjoyed a good giggle.  

Ron and I continue to explore ways to add more laughter into our every day lives. The benefits of sustained intentional laughter include reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, boosting the immune system, increasing oxygen to the brain, creating a sense of connection and community, and increasing feelings of happiness. Plus, laughter offers us aerobic exercise. 

Here are some of the way we’re adding extra laughter into the day:

  • Laughing while we exercise. Squats are much more fun when you’re giggling as you do them.
  • Adding laughter activities in while we walk.
  • Singing “Ha Ha” syllables to favorite tunes. Even a simple, Row Row Row Your Boat, with Ha ha syllables, makes us laugh.
  • Looking at the clock and deciding, “We’re going to laugh for one minute.”

We often visit Robert Rivest’s site for short ten-minute laughter videos, which cheer us onward. Laughteryoga.org offers more great resources. And we have fun creating our own laughter activities. If you have laughing ideas you want to share, we’d love to hear from you.

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.

CITLOD very small

Love in the Land of Dementia_cover