By Hollis Taylor
“Wow! You made people smile that haven’t smiled in days!”
“This is great exercise and its fun!”
After a program at a facility we are often told all sorts of things that lead us to believe that this program is something truly special. Staff often say things about how we bring out even the residents that don’t normally participate. Interestingly, even alzheimer’s patients recognize the magic that just happened. They often say things like:
“You make us happy!”
“When are you coming back!”
“You make this place light up! Thank you so much!”
“You bring a lot of light into this place.”
Regardless, each time, its like a whole new experience. We can never predict what is going to happen. We know that we have a basic formula. The group sits in the best circle the space allows, Bright Hawk sits in the middle and plays her Hang PANArt, and I approach one person at a time for one on one interaction. I encourage movement or at least a smile and maybe even a hug. Using Teepa Snow’s methods I am easily welcomed, especially when they have their name tags on. As I engage each person I am lifted up with them feeling like I feed their hearts love, they reach to return the same love I offer.
Yes I engage them in range of motion. I also engage their hearts with touch, hugs, and smiles. I offer understanding and options in how to move your body even if its in a wheelchair or only one side works. I offer a moment to allow me to support movement while they connect with my eyes. Even for those that cannot move on their own their engagement is the same. We stare into each other eyes and find our humanity. I see their wisdom and they see what they need most.
When alzheimer’s residents are faced with me dancing with them they often are overjoyed to meet their son, boyfriend, husband, or friend from long ago. I feel honored to relive the memory with them. When I am faced with a cognitively alert person that cannot move on their own, they sense my compassion and understanding for their position. We engage the same way and for those moments we engage, they find the connection to inspire smiles, laughter and even tears.
I can feel Bright Hawk’s music engaging each of their hearts and I know they love to watch her smile while she plays her soothing joyful music. As we are inspired to move with the music each resident has opportunities to connect directly with me or Bright Hawk. Offering space for every individual to feel loved, celebrated and embraced. Touch brings a special meaning to them, many people in long term care facilities are in need of more touch. I think though that all of us could use more love and touch, including hugs! I hug all the seniors in my path that are willing to receive hugs. Rarely am I turned down! Touch is a big part of Let’s Dance and that becomes apparent through the hour program.
The program is so unique that its hard to explain in words and often I ask that activities people just give us a chance. One chance to show you what happens when this all comes together! At the end when we hear these words we are inspired to continue our work to greatly improve the life of those in Long Term Care Facilities, Adult Day Cares, Wheelchairs, and Alzheimers/Memory Care Residencies. We also provide this program for groups of children and adults as a movement/exercise program that also unites!