Somatic Revelations Ty Tedmon-Jones' blog devoted to information sharing, professional practices and diversity awareness & multiculturalism in the fields of Dance/Movement Therapy and Professional Counseling
The Dance to DTR Blair Cronin's blog on the wonders, trials, and tribulations of becoming a certified dance/movement therapist in California
Thanks to Sue Lembeck-Edens, Board-Certified Dance/Movement Therapist and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist for sending me this essay by Yu-Rong Gao, PhD grad student in neuroscience. Yu-Rong participated in some of Sue's DMT groups and initiated a group for the nursing home residents. The essay below is her way of sharing this experience. I am including it in toto.
Dance Evoked Memories: A Dance Practice as a Neuroscientist Yu-Rong Gao
Voluntary locomotion promptly increases neural activity and local cerebral blood flow in certain brain regions, which is the subject I, a neuroscience PhD student, study at Penn State. At the same time, I am a Ballet, Modern and Chinese Classical dancer and practice dance on a daily basis. Personally, I love dance, because it helps me forget sad things and recall good memories. This summer, I volunteered in a Dance/Movement therapy group under the guidance of Sue Lembeck-Edens, BC-DMT, in a local nursing home at State College, PA. I wanted to experience what Dance Therapy was like with older individuals. After several weeks of initial observations in a morning stretch session at the facility, I came up with a dance project for the residents to diversify their daily exercises with dance moves and music. At the same time, I wanted to see how dancing will help with social interaction for the elderly. The main idea of this project was to create a dance by working together with the residents and using dance as a way for people to relate to one another. With some discussion and helpful suggestions from Sue, we decided our dance theme was ‘Summer Memories’ since we would dance three months throughout the summer. We came up with some simple movements, dance combinations, and group activities to encourage the participation. These became the dance frame. In addition, we found some poems about summer to evoke participants’ memories about summertime.
For 8 weeks, there were about six residents who attended the group. The residents are in their 70s-80s, all in wheel chairs. Most of them have age-related dementia (memory loss, trouble to focus and pay attention) of varying degrees and need 24-hour skilled nursing care. The Therapeutic Recreation staff chose the residents for the group based on their knowledge of the resident’s interests and abilities.
Each group session started with introductions and warm-up exercises done specifically to activate the major muscle groups and open joints. As their bodies relaxed and opened through movement, the residents gradually got to know the leaders and opened up about their summer memories. The highlight of the dance came with everybody sharing one of his/her most memorable things about summer and then creating a series of dance movements to narrate the story again with body language. Here are some of the memories and the movement people shared during the group: Mike: “I remember teaching tennis to kids and adults.” Mike actually taught us some upper body movements like a tennis serve; tossing the ball up with one hand and striking it downward with the other as he did when he was a tennis coach.
Pat: “I lived on the water. I personally like sailing. My sailboat was red. We had races. There was room for 2 people in the boat; somebody steering and somebody screaming! In1940 a hurricane came and smashed the boat against the rocks…that was the end of our boat.” Pat described many details about the good time they spent with the boat and expressed the pity that they lost the boat in the storm. Her story brought everyone to an imaginary boat as we waved side to side as if we were in the sea.
Most of the residents in this group were native Pennsylvanians, many from the same local regions. As time went on, residents found that they happened to go to some of the same places or even came from the same communities.
Dorothy: “We escaped from Shamokin and spent summers in Eagles Mere. I swam and played in the sand with my brother Joe. Shamokin Creek was black from coal, as black as the ace of spades.” Dorothy recalled that she thought creeks were black until she married and left Shamokin. Then she realized that not all creeks had coal washed in them.
Anita: “We went to Atlantic City from Kulpmont which is near Shamokin. We walked on the boardwalk.” The group moved their feet as though walking on the boardwalk reminiscing about what they had seen, smelled and tasted, like salt water taffy!
Jeff: “From Philadelphia, we went to Atlantic City in the summer. We ate lunch and played in the sand. My sister Cathy and I helped Grandpop dig for clams. Grandpop cut the clams open with a pocket knife and ate them all!” Jeff’s memory gave the group an opportunity to reach toward the floor as if it were sand and use our hands in a digging motion to scoop up some clams.
The movement experiences offered participants opportunities to connect with one another and share more of themselves with their summer stories from decades ago. There were times when family members participated in our dance and we got some unexpected effects. When Jeff’s daughter joined our dance, Jeff told his story about going to Atlantic City as a child and digging for clams. His daughter was very surprised. That was her first time hearing this story from her father and through this experience she got to know more about him. I also noticed that when there were family members around, residents tended to participate more in the group especially with encouragement and support from the family members.
Jack: “Back then there was Raystown River. When the water was low we could walk across. The water was up to my neck. We would take the row boat out and sometimes we saw friends taking a bath in the river; they even brought their own soap!”
Among all the participants, Jack stood out as a former tap dancer. He was very excited about telling us his interesting stories about being a tap dancer. During the dance movement activity, he volunteered to teach some basic tap steps to all of us. We realized that tap is a perfect dance form for those people in wheel chairs as its very rhythmic and involves the use of the feet and legs. Jack described the opening of a dance piece he had done before when all the dancers walked onto the stage in a line. Therefore, we reproduced this opening in our dance with people walking in wheel chairs either with or without assistance in a line. It turned out to be a very powerful opening, as everyone was excited to be involved. In one of the last sessions, Jack was so excited during the dance that he suddenly stood up from the wheel chair and danced for one minute with some assistance, although he suffers some leg problems. As a dancer myself, I was so touched and empathized with Jack at that moment. I can imagine I would feel revitalized if I got a chance to dance and to teach others dance when I am in my eighties.
My experience this summer illustrated for me what we now know in neuroscience about the importance of dance. Scientifically, dance has been known to be the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia1. Dance involves the integration of music rhythms and coordination, requiring complex somatosensory-motion system activation and synchronization of many brain regions2, such as superior temporal syrus for hearing music, frontal lobe for motion planning, cerebellum for motion coordination, and basal ganglia for motion prediction and so on. Dance generates new neural networks helping to maintain and improve our mental intelligence. Combining dance with other social activities, as we created in this program can improve cognition in older adults.
1.Verghese, J. et al. Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. The New England journal of medicine 348, 2508-16 (2003). 2.Brown, S., Martinez, M. & Parsons, L. The neural basis of human dance. Cerebral cortex 16, 1157-1167 (2006).
Author: Yu-Rong Gao is currently a fourth year PhD student at the Pennsylvania State University majoring in neuroscience, minoring in statistics. She started dancing at age four and trained in pure Chinese Classical Dance for ten years. After she came to the United States in 2011, she resumed dance but included ballet and modern dance and co-founded a Chinese Dance Club at Penn State. Her interest is in benefiting people with/without neurological diseases by means of dance and music, and her belief is that arts, especially dancing, are the source of happiness without boundaries. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Advisor: Susanna Lembeck-Edens is a graduate of Penn State University and of the Goucher College Dance/Movement Therapy program. Sue’s background in Creative Modern Dance serves her well in working as a Dance/Movement therapist, a licensed massage therapist and a wellness educator. No matter which “hat” Sue wears, she specializes in working with older adults; engaging and enhancing the physical, emotional, spiritual and social aspects of life. Sue believes that through movement and dance, opportunities for real connections are made and meaningful experiences are shared. Contact email: email@example.com
In my search for information about retrogenesis, I just happened upon this blog post, Revisiting the Theory of Retrogenesis about attempting to shower a person with a significant dementia that makes so much sense.
Retrogenesis is the concept that in dementia the brain deteriorates functionally and cognitively in the reverse order of how it develops in early life. Verna Brenner Carson offers this perspective of how an understanding of retrogenesis can help with bathing, one of the most common, challenging ordeals caregivers face:
By the time someone with Alzheimer’s requires the assistance of another to do basic activities such as bathing, the person is functioning at Stage 6 . . . on the FAST (Functional Assessment Staging Tool). This stage equates to the cognitive and functional level of a toddler, and we generally do not shower toddlers. The water from the shower hitting the toddler in the face would be very frightening to the child! We generally bathe toddlers in a tub. We sing to them while we bathe them; we put toys into the bath water with the child; we try to make the bathing experience pleasant — we certainly don’t choose a method of bathing that frightens or in any way upsets the child.
Ginny Mazur, Community Partnership Director at Goddard House shared great wisdom about what she sees as the basis for hopeful in aging in this interview with Dr. John Zeisel.
"There were many highlights in what she had to say, in fact, she was radiant. She talked about the community walking program at Goddard House, where the residents walk in nature. Asked what it is about walking in nature that is healing, Ginny said, "There’s something intrinsically healing for all of us, not just a person with AD. . . . Something magical happens. The dementia falls away. It doesn’t matter who’s who.... another aspect of nature is that it is very leveling. We realize we’re part of a much greater sense of things. We’re a little blip on the screen. We simultaneously feel how small we are, and how connected we are."
The interiority of ourselves is a concept of Rabbi Zalman Schacter Shalomi's in his book, From Ageing to Sageing that Ginny shared in the Hopeful Aging interview, produced by Bedford TV.
This is an interview well worth the 30 minutes of watching. I look forward to watching Zeisel's interview of storyteller and healer, Alan O'Hare as well.
Mind, Heart, and Movement An Evening of Creative Arts & Health Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 7pm
The NYC Regional Arts in Healthcare Group brings together a broad spectrum of professionals and students in art, music, drama, dance, writing, the creative arts therapies, healthcare, mental health, government, and education.
We are thrilled to present our upcoming event, Tuesday, October 28th featuring clinical somatic psychotherapist, dance movement therapist, Dr. Jennifer Frank Tantia, Phd, BC-DMT, LCAT, and an exclusive performance/discussion of "4 Chambers,” an original sensorial journey into the heart by renowned choreographer, Jody Oberfelder.
Connect with colleagues and be inspired. All members and non-members welcome!
REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED
LOCATION: PHILLIPS AMBULATORY CARE CENTER 10 Union Square East, 2nd floor New York, NY 10003 4, 5, 6, N, Q, R TO UNION SQUARE 14 ST STOP
Iris Bräuninger's article, 'Dance movement therapy with the elderly: An international internet-based survey under taken with practitioners' is being published in Body, Movement and Dance in Psychotherapy (2014). Routledge / Taylor & Francis has included the article in an online article collection focussing on dementia and memory loss (http://bit.ly/dementia-articles) as part of a series on neurological disorders.
Thanks to friend, dancer, fellow Certified Laban Analyst, and Assistant Professor at Roger Williams University, Cathy Nicoli for sharing the link to this story, Rainy Days and Mondys on NPR's This American Life with Ira Glass. It only took me 7 weeks to finally sit and listen. I was delighted to hear Karen Stobbe's story of her attempts to apply improvisational skills to her life with Mother, with whom Karen, husband Mondy and 15 y.o. daughter were living with. Karen is a wonderful woman whom I've met over the past several years at the Pioneer Network conferences.
Karen's story reveals how much easier it is for her husband to apply improv skills to engage with her mother than for her. That is a story very familiar to me, and is why I think that providing a compassionate environment other than one's original home can be an appropriate alternative. As I listened to the story, I was reminded of the difficulty I had when my father's story conflicted with my internal sense of myself and my history. It was particulary difficult when I brought my father to my home for a family dinner the first time and he asked why I hadn't invited my mother. Didn't my dad know who I was, didn't he know that I would never fail to invite my mom if I could? That's why I needed to impress upon him the memory that my mother had died. Never mind the pain I caused him, I was protecting my sense of myself. It took me a few times of re-injuring him with this reminder before I realized that the compassionate thing to do was to join his reality.
Karen Stobbe calls this "Yes, and". She offers creative ideas on her website, In the Moment. It's the only moment there is for people with dementia. In fact, it's really the only moment that any of us have.
James Vanden Bosch created a resource list with wonderful suggestions for some of the best videos, documentaries, books, and websites I've seen and learned from. I think most of these would be on my list of what I think it most important to know when Caring with Persons Who Are Living with Dementia.
This looks like it will be a wonderful conference. Wish I could go, but maybe you could and let us know what you learned.
The Arts as Inspiration for Learning * Teaching * Making * Living
October 31-November 2 Barbara C. Harris Center in Greenfield, NH
Early-bird pricing in effect through September 15 Full conference, commuter & day rates are available. CEUs are offered. Graduate credit may be available from Plymouth State University. Contact Dr. Trish Lindberg for details.
Tuesday, October 7 10:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. JF&CS Headquarters 1430 Main Street, Waltham, Massachusetts
Lunch will be served.
The training is free to people caring for their loved ones at home. Seating is limited.
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-305-7107.
Hearthstone Alzheimer Care is offering a free training using its award-winning I'm Still Here™ approach at JF&CS Headquarters. Participants in this training session will learn valuable strategies for:
Reducing repetitive question asking Reducing resistance to bathing Dining out with your loved one Successful communication techniques Making your home "dementia friendly" Activities you can do with your loved one Maintaining relationships with family members and friends Creating memory cues that can help maintain independence
The Octaband™ is a fun, interactive tool which promotes individuality and group cohesion through movement for people of all ages and abilities. As a dance/movement therapist, Donna Newman-Bluestein was motivated to design the Octaband to stimulate movement in the elderly with dementia. The stretchy material, bright colors, and innovative design stimulate self-expression, spontaneity, and awareness of others. The center circle provides a strong visual focus, and the 5 1/2" hem at the end of each arm allows those with limited grasping ability to participate. Go to www.octaband.com to learn more.