Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Power of Music

What magic! A Strauss waltz was playing. When I took this gentleman who has severe dementia for a dance his former grace and evident dance skill were reborn. He just knew what to do. He was transported to a time of beauty and romance. Or perhaps, through the music and a little encouragement, he was transported from the void of what is Alzheimer’s Disease to the present.

 While speaking about “The Music Never Stopped” an indie feature film based on the essay “The Last Hippie” from his book  AN ANTHROPOLOGIST ON MARS, Dr. Oliver Sacks said: “The film is a moving testament not only to the love between a father and his son, but to the miraculous power of music to heal a damaged brain. Remembering music, listening to it or playing it, is entirely in the, while it lasts, it can bridge even the abyss of extreme amnesia or dementia. Music can be more powerful than any drugs.”

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

On Cultural Sensitivity

I enjoyed reading the article about Cultural Specific Care on the ALFA Update site. I have a sweet story to share. Minna was a tiny Chinese lady who resided in a memory care unit of a nursing home. The staff had told me not to include her as she didn't speak English. Because I like a challenge I paid special attention to her. After our Benevolent Ballet class, which she thoroughly enjoyed , she hurried back to her room. A few minutes later she handed me a tiny package wrapped in a paper napkin. Inside were two pennies for which I gratefully thanked her! This was repeated after each class. Either because Minna ran out of pennies or because her condition was deteriorating this gift became her dessert cookie, a pudding cup and finally a cup of melted ice cream! The Asian custom of reciprocal gift giving was ingrained in her spirit. I'll always remember dear Minna.

Monday, October 11, 2010

On Empowerment

The frail  residents of nursing homes as well as those with middle to late stage Alzheimer's are more capable then they are usually given credit for. They simply need to be encouraged and empowered. They may not be able to do brain surgery but they can do more then sit staring into space, pacing the floor or acting out. I get very angry when aides tell me "Oh! He or she won't do anything. You don't have to bother with them." The key is to first make sure:
  •  That their physical and emotional needs are met
  •  That they feel safe from the possibility of failing (or falling for that matter)
  •  That they know you are interested in them and want share yourself with them
Then all you have to do is  sincerely share your passion with them at their level of sophistication and cognition. You will be rewarded by the class's enthusiaastic participation.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Busy September

Hello Everyone,
On Sept. 22 I'll be going to England to visit my son's family. Their adorable 2 year old twin girls are growing up so fast I've just got to see them! While in the UK I'd like to meet with someone about the possibility of holding a training seminar there. Any guidance would be appreciated.

September is going to be a busy month. On the twelve we'll be having a party for our Uncle Jerry's 102nd birthday After living with us for nearly six years we moved him into Savannah Court Assisted Living.He gets help with all his activities of daily living. There are lots of activities and the staff is caring.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Creativity in Alzheimer's Disease

I have found that creativity is not affected by deficits in memory or cognition. In my classes I have found that after the participants become aware and focused they can exhibit remarkable creativity. It happens after he or she has participated in the exercise program for around thirty minutes or so. Their attention is drawn to the music and they are instructed to “Listen to the music and let it guide you anyway you like” The exercise is facilitated with a scarf, ribbon or balloon. Take Lee, who I’d say is middle to late stage AD. He is amicable and tries but has very poor cognition. The gentleman next to him keeps chiding him which is not good for Lee’s self esteem. I began by placing my hands over his, holding the large balloon. As we began to move with the music and I saw that he understood I backed away asking him to continue. The transformation was astonishing. With a little encouragement he continued to interpret the music with amazing creativity. At the end I told how wonderfully he had done. It was a compliment he badly needed!

I’d be interested to know what experiences you have had regarding creativity with this population.

Monday, August 17, 2009

On Aggressive Behavior

The aide told me not to bother with the new resident who. I’ll call Mr. J. “He may get violent.” They said. I believe that most bad behavior is the result of the inability to communicate one's needs, indeed, the basic needs of all personhood or the inability to understand their environment. Put yourself in this position. Wouldn’t you be frustrated nearly to the point of lashing out? Just yesterday I overestimated a day care client's ability to follow verbal direction. He immediately tensed up and made a very belligerent remark. A staff member strongly chastised him. It was my fault. I had asked him to understand something that he simply was unable to do. He was frustrated and angry. I went to him taking his hands in mine while comforting him saying something like,” It’s alright. Come on we'll do it together" Finding a building block or retained strength I said “Good music eh?” Mr. J nodded. He felt safer and willing allowed me to take him through the movement and was smiling by the end. I even was able to back away while he continued the movement on his own.


Welcome to my blog where I will share my thoughts, ideas and experiences with the Benvolent Ballet Fall Prevention program. For those who are not familiar with the program it is an approach to exercise especially designed for those with physical and or cognitive challenges including the frial elderly. Inspired by classical ballet's music and concepts it becomes not only an exercise class but an altogether enriching experience.

Incorporated into this program is a motivational approach using what may be called 'empathic engagement' . One day training seminars for healthcare staff have been held throughout the US. I have personally facilitated the program in assisted living, skilled nursing facilities and independent living communities