(Names of residents changed in order to protect the privacy rights of residents)
As we settle in for our fourth visit to the Rehabilitation & Nursing Center of the Rockies in Fort Collins, CO I am calm and feel like I know most of the residents. I see a few new faces since last month but many of the same faces. Bright Hawk gets the music started and I begin to greet people, one at a time. I reach my hand out, palms up in order to create a welcoming and uplifting hand hold. Once we hold hands I make eye contact, being sure to smile big. People with Alzheimer and dementia respond well to gentle guidance, smiles, and touch. In my experience creating a sincere compassionate connection initially will help me guide them into exercise later. So for the first round I just greet everyone in the circle. I welcome everyone, even if they are asleep, “checked out”, or “combative”. In that moment its me and them, eyes to eyes, smiles to smiles, hands to hands. Our hearts can hear each other.
The lady I began with is easy for me to remember because she was new and I noted how welcoming she was to my handshake. As I returned to her she smiled at me, as if she knew me from long ago. She was certainly a new face to me today, but because she had met me just moment ago she now felt like she knew me. I could see her name on her name tag “Mary” I took her hands and I could see that she wore a security bracelet, which usually indicates dementia. She began to speak and I realized her words just didn’t make much sense but her tone was clear. She was trying to explain something to me so I responded with “I understand my friend” and gently began to guide her in movement to Bright Hawk’s music.
This is the moment that I wonder about the Hang PANArt and its healing vibrations. It becomes apparent to me that the music from the Hang PANArt combined with some basic training from Teepa Snow, trust and goodwill have developed quickly. If I just give a few moments for the music to sooth their nerves and then greet them, I receive many more hand shakes and smiles. Then once Bright Hawk gets going everyone begins to feel the desire to move so to assist them and suggest movement with me just lifts their souls even higher. For those residents with Alzheimer’s and Dementia they often project onto me someone they love. I might become their late husband, high school boyfriend, a child or a parent. Since I appear androgynous whatever they gender me as is perfectly okay, I will never correct them. I want them to feel loved and honored not scolded and corrected. I want to help lift their hearts up with mine and my touch is one of my favorite tools.
As I dance with “Mary” she decides she wants to stand up and its clear to me that she is an independent walker. I look her in the eyes and she is smiling at me. We dance around very gently and softly. Our shared joy is only half expressed with our physical movements but I do a little fancy footwork to bring a smile to her face. She smiles like she is dancing with an old friend and says something non sensible into my ear. We keep dancing and move towards her chair. I motion for her to sit in the chair as a way to rest now that has exercised. Many people with Alzheimer and dementia wander around usually because they are in need of more exercise. Its not always easy to get them to exercise but with Let’s Dance we earn their trust and ease their nerves. As we hug and smile a goodbye she holds my hand a bit longer to tell me something intimate, although her words made no sense. I smile and tell her I love her!
As the moment passes and I move on eventually a young caregiver approaches me excited about “How did I get Mary to dance?” I smile at her and say well the music helps, A lot!! We begin to discuss my approach and the richness of the Let’s Dance program, she is almost moved to tears as to what has just happened. She begins to tell me her story about trying to have healthy movement activities with them but struggling to get certain ones involved. She described how she can’t do things in the afternoon because of sun downing and how some of them just refused to do anything. She described that they couldn’t follow any direction. “Mary” was one of those someones and I just did it, just like that. I smiled and I told her that it was part the music and Bright Hawk gifts her a CD. We ask if the facility will pay for it otherwise she can just have it. Generous, always generous hearts.
But “Mary” and other people like her in memory care units, long term care facilities and rehabilitation centers around the world, is why Let’s Dance is so profound. We love to bring a little release to their experience so that they have moments filled with joy, laughter, love and movement. We love our jobs! Generosity opens the door to abundance!