How does dancing with people with dementia improve your ability to communicate with them?
“How can it possibly help one communicate with people with dementia by dancing with them?” many people may wonder.
The answer: Dance is a nonverbal language that preceded our verbal language. We lose our abilities in the reverse order in which we gained them, a process known as retrogenesis. So, even with diminished cognitive / verbal abilities, the ability to express oneself and communicate with others remains until late in the disease process of dementia, even until the end.
In the photo above, we are using movements to a song choreographed by the group as a whole. I’m able to see who can follow directions and who cannot, modifying the structures based on the people who are present. One of the women in this photo had a stroke which left her unable to speak (a condition known as aphasia). Because of her inability to speak, people assumed she also could not understand verbal language. This woman was so delighted to attend this group each week, not only because she loved to dance, which she did, but also because she appreciated the recognition of her remaining skills and her ability to remain connected. However, once a week is not a sufficient amount of time for a person to feel human connection.
Dance is a language spoken by people around the world. Dance provides us with an opportunity to be in our bodies. People with dementia are looking to our bodies’ movement, not only our faces, to perceive their relative safety or danger. They also recognize when we are playing with them. Play is a wonderful way to communicate with people with dementia.
The October 14 Early Bird deadline to register for the training to Bring Dance to People with Dementia is fast approaching. This 15-hour weekend training will provide dance/movement, music, and expressive therapists, mental health counselors, program directors, activity therapists, and caregivers who enjoy dancing and working with people with dementia the skills to create a dance program based on your skill level. This training is provided by a practitioner greatly experienced in the interface between dance and dementia and about whom, Beth Soltzberg, Director of JF&CS Memory Cafe wrote to say, “Two of our guests came up to me at the end of the café on Friday, and said, “That was the BEST one ever!” Don’t miss out on this opportunity.
AND, if you are between the ages of 18 and 30 and are interested in caring for older adults in any capacity, you may be eligible for a scholarship from the Jordan Liebhaber scholarship fund. Admissions are rolling, and, I believe, fairly accessible.