Novel props to engage people living with dementia, including those with Alzheimer's Disease
Late October is always a great time to use props in activity groups with people with memory loss because Hallowe’en makes it so easy. This year, though, I had a tough time choosing which props to use in the dance/movement therapy groups I lead in Assisted Living homes, simply because there was so much possibility. So here’s what I did.
I expanded on an idea from 2004 when I used masks I made myself by printing out amplified images from the internet of George W. Bush and John Kerry. This time I used masks I purchased of the presidential candidates, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. Without saying anything about them, including their names, I merely mentioned that the residents may be aware that of the recent presidential debates and that I needed volunteers who would be willing to wear the masks. With two volunteers wearing the masks, I told them their job was simply to gesture, to Ethel Merman’s rendition of “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better”. I followed that tune up with “Circus of Your Mind” from Neverland the musical. It was pretty riotous – much like this pre-election season, I’m afraid.
Still playing with hats, I brought the tri-cornered hat I got this past week-end when I was at Mount Vernon, and had a chance to tell them about George Washington, who didn’t run for president and didn’t even want to be president, but acquiesced to his many colleagues who wanted him to take on the role of first president. By the way, if you’ve never been, I highly recommend a visit to Mount Vernon. In addition to his roles during the revolutionary war, presiding over the Constitutional Convention, and becoming first president, he had been a surveyor, a “gentleman planter”, an architect and an entrepreneur. There were many inspiring quotations, among them: “I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.” The mask below the hat is one that I purchased at the LBJ museum in Austin, TX a while ago. We followed this up singing God Bless America and then America the Beautiful.
Hats for residents to wear are always a big hit, and this fabulous purple satin witch’s hat with spider-studded veil found at a recent flea market was certainly no exception. Mrs. A wore it for the whole group and didn’t want to part with it. That and a magician’s hat were worn to a Bobby Rydell version of That Old Black Magic.
I attempt to weave in a little bit about my life with the seasonal theme, and so brought in a new oldies song, Elvis Presley’s That’s Alright Mama which the group Foreigner played at last night’s acoustic concert in Boston. My stepson Michael Bluestein is the keyboard player.
Variety in both music and props spices up the group, stimulating those whose motivation needs to be tapped to get them to move as well as the folks with greater cognitive abilities. Based on their responsiveness during the group as well as the gratitude expressed after, I think it’s safe to say a good time was had by all – and certainly including me.