Dance with a person with Dementia.
When people with dementia lose their cognitive abilities, they may also begin to lose their initiative. Unable to start moving independently, they may sit immobile for hours. This inability to initiate can lead the person to feel lethargic, isolated, lonely and depressed. They may feel helpless. If someone gets them going, they can engage and move significantly more than they otherwise would. Dance can help people maintain and even improve their physical experience and social engagement in life.
What kinds of dance?
What kind of dance you might ask. I use the broadest definition, including social, folk, and modern dance, improvisation, and most importantly, expressive movement and the dance of interaction (nonverbal communication between two or more people).
Playing on the strengths of people with dementia
Dance plays to the strengths of people with dementia. If they lose their censors, or internal judges, they are much more willing to play. They may not be able to initiate, but they can be spontaneous. While their minds may not remember the past, their bodies do. I remember working with one woman, confined to a geri-chair, a tray keeping her in place in a gero-psych inpatient setting. She had forgotten how to feed herself and often came to group with food on her face. As I picture her, I remember first offering her a warm wet cloth and asking if she’d like her face washed. She nodded yes. She often seemed retreated, into her own world. But when I put on Strauss’s Blue Danube waltz, her posture lifted, and elegance settled over her as she allowed her arms and shoulders to lead her body into the rhythm. The woman she had been emerged from the woman she had become.
Social Emotional Benefits
Some of the benefits of dance/movement therapy with older adults and people with dementia, including those in advanced stages:
- increased vitality
- social connection
- alleviation of anxiety, loneliness, and isolation
- range of movement
- body awareness