Sunday, May 15, 2011

A 5W Poem

Metrophobia- the fear or hatred of poetry. Seriously- a real diagnosis. Now I suppose there are extreme paranoias of anything rhyming and metered but many of us have a mild degree of metrophobia. Don't you remember sitting in English or Literature class, dissecting poems by meter, syllable and meaning? Oh, it's the hidden meanings, the "Right" meanings, the subtle play on words that zoomed over our heads and left us floundering around in oblivion. We think, "I have no idea what that means. I'm gonna fail!"

Image via DallasNews

The truth about poetry is that good poetry is not easy. I mean "Good Poetry". It does not arrive, flowing out the ink pen onto the page, fully formed and mature. You're supposed to wrestle with the words, the feeling, the meaning. You're supposed to think about what you're writing and that's what we want our residents to do. Think, remember, ponder, create, stimulate those brain connections. But poetry doesn't have to be inaccessible.

Remember the Six-Word Memoirs? Fun stuff, right? Well today I'm going to share another exercise that lets our residents share and express themselves through poetry. These super-duper poems are called 5W Poems and you don't have to tap out any kind of iambic pentameter or rhyme even one word. Unless the muse moves you to do so.

Image via Writing Forward

These poems have five lines, each line answering the five words we all learned in grade school that identifies a sentence as a question: who, what, where, when, why. The structure looks like this-

Line 1: Who     

Line 2: What   

Line 3: Where  

Line 4: When  

Line 5: Why     

The first four lines set up the poem, establishing history and describing the Who, What, Where, and When. The last line, the Why, brings all of those elements together and concludes the poem with an explanation.

I like doing this activity with my patients. More than once someone has surprised his or herself by the concluding line they write. We go around and share our poems and on ocassion there have been tears. When we start encouraging and assisting our residents to explore and express their thoughts and feelings, it's important to be prepared for what may come out. Sometimes it sad, others times it's hysterical, or uplifting, maybe whimsical, perhaps it's just a funny take on life. That's the beauty of our jobs.

 Summer Vacation
Annie and I
Jumped into the cow pond
At my house
After school was over.
We needed to be refreshed.

(Annie was the writer's younger sister)

Fresh Troops

My Army unit
Burned latrine barrels
At the airfield in Saigon
Our first day in Viet Nam.
We were the new boys in-country.

(This writer explained that this was why he never owned a cat-
the litter boxes smell like burning latrine barrels. Who knew?)

Blessed By Berries

Made the best pies
In the summer kitchen
When I was a child
Because she loved the bounty.


My husband
Worked in the coal mines
Of West Virginia
For twenty-five years
To feed our seven children.

... followed by...

Died in a roof fall
A mile underground
on a Tuesday afternoon
So I could drive a new car.

Mrs. Potts, RD

Our dietitian
Works as an esthetician
All alone in the back of the kitchen
At four AM, the hour of witchin'
Just to hear our bitchin'.

Get outta here with the simplicity of these poems!! You could determine a topic for your poetry session in order to get the creative juices flowing, if needed. "Today we're going to write poems about ..." spring, pets, lunch, vacation, med pass, spouses, siblings, parents, fruit, Bingo, first jobs, whatever you can think of. And y'all are a creative bunch so finding a topic, if you choose to set one, won't be a problem. You could even incorporate this into another activity. Say you're having a circus day or exercise group, visiting middle school choir (this is fun to do as in intergenerational activity), or themed activities for National Nursing Home Week. Bring your folks together at the end of the group/day/week and have a wrap up. Encourage discussion and sharing ideas and then introduce this poetry writing as a way to conclude. Residents can share their poems and/or you can post them on a special bulletin board in your facility. Of course, you know your population and how they might respond to poetry. I'm thinking back to the other facilities I've worked at- one wanted a book club and outings to the symphony, one wanted Bingo, string band, Bingo, spin art, and Bingo.

I just love it when residents realize they have done something they thought was totally inaccessible to them. "Oops! I wrote a poem. Hey, I'm a genius!" And you can sit back, smile and "Yes you are."

My resident
Wrote an awesome poem
In the Activity Room
One morning after breakfast
Because she has a lifetime of stories to tell.

Image via Newstimes

Have fun!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Meet Me- Art Appreciation for Individuals with Dementia

Image Source

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in NYC is all about access to modern and contemporary art. The museum's education department has an extensive Access Program that provides art programming to over ten thousand individuals a year with emotional, developmental behavioral, learning, or physical disabilities. They have also developed a program specifically for those living with Alzheimer's disease that offers art experiences such as discussion and observation of the work in their collection. This program focuses primarily on early and middle stages of the disease and is lead by specially trained museum staff/educators. The MoMA Alzheimer's Project is an extension of their in-house program that provides resources, education, workshops, and assistance to museums, assisted-living facilities, and other organizations within communities that serve individuals with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. Several museums through out the country have developed similar programs.

moma outside
Image Source

I know that for many of our folks, art is something that other people do. Art is, to many, mysterious and beyond their understanding. And modern art? Well, who even gets that, right? But modern art includes works that are very familiar to most of our folks. Who knew that Vincent Van Gough's Starry Night was "modern"? So maybe use the resources at MoMA's Meet Me site and start with familiar paintings that won't "scare off" our residents.

File:Van Gogh - Starry Night - Google Art Project.jpg
Image Source

I've posted one of the videos below from the MoMA/Meet Me website. This site is really incredible. They provide step-by-step assistance and resources for setting up a program, even artwork and education modules. They even provide information and videos on interacting with participants and conducting each session. You don't have to be an art history major to do this. I'm going to be spending a good bit of time on their site, combing over their resources and working towards getting something similar set up in my facility. I like Francesca Rosenberg's comments about how a local museum with the vision and maybe even only one dedicated person can develop this program. I also like the comments by the couple toward the end of the video who talk about how they use the give-aways at home.

Cool, huh? So go check out their website. Give yourself plenty of time to snoop around. I just think this is a very exciting way to give voice and encourage interaction to those folks in our facilities who are living with Alzheimer's. Maybe you have a nice local museum that would be willing to work with you on something similar. Maybe a local college has students in their art department in need of projects, maybe even a grad student who needs a doctoral thesis!

It's so exciting to see the creative and tender ways that caring, interested people are reaching out to out elders living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.

We'll take a look in a later post at some easy suggestion for introducing an art appreciation program into your facility, especially if your population might feel a bit intimidated by "ART."

Have you tried something similar in your facility or had an experience with a resident who found their voice through art? I would for you to share.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Show Must- and CAN- Go On

Image via Custom Home Theater

I feel that I need to follow up on this with you, since I put a a big ol' post on how to get movies through your Wii. After that post, I received a couple of emails about the licensing issue with the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC). As a quick review, way back in the 1980's (yes some of us were already around back then) we started hearing about how the MPLC wasn't happy that movies were being shown in nursing homes and assisted living facilities without these facilities having been licensed to show movies. I understand about intellectual property but the MPLC didn't feel that these types of facilities were private homes and therefore needed to purchase a not very cheap license to show movies. Congress got involved, yada yada yada, and a temporary agreement was reached that allowed our facilities to show movies.

Photo by Michael Newman via Flickr

Fast forward ten years to 2001, when the agreement  expired. Showing movies had by then become a standard practice in  nursing facilities. Really- how much easier could it be to go rent or buy a VHS movie and plug it into a VCR? Ah, suddenly I'm thinking fondly about John Denver on 8-track..... but I wander. Anyway, no one seemed to be paying much attention to the licensing issue any more and life seemed to go on its merry way.

Image via tvtropes

Until the MPLC realized that Continuous Care Retirement Communities were ALSO showing movies. And that really, a whole lot of places were showing movies. So they started sniffing around. As I started sniffing around to follow up on this issue, I learned that it has been rumored that the MPLC was even sending out spy-type folks to see just who all was showing movies. Well, all of us, right?

Image via Virtual Village

So enter the lawyers, time goes by, much debate is carried out, and finally another agreement was reached. Nursing Homes and Assisted Living Facilities are now exempt from a licensing requirement to show movies as part of their programming. Yippee!

BUT.... any facility with independent living arrangements of any type, located anywhere on the grounds (i.e. a wing of the same building, a separate building across the parking lot, etc) must purchase a license, based upon the number of independent living units, to show movies if residents in these independent quarters have access to the common areas of the nursing or assisted living facilities where movies are being shown. I'm sorry- that was a terribly long sentence. In other words, Independent Andy can watch a movie in his own apartment but he cannot purchase, rent, or show a movie to other residents in a common area of the independent facility. Neither can he stroll over to the nursing facility on movie night to catch a flick with his buddy who has moved to the "side" of the community.

Image via Mini-Van Monologues

ALSO (because lawyers like to be thorough), any facility with closed circuit systems that show movies through out the facility, on Movie Monday or whatever, must purchase a license, based again on number of living quarters. The license must renewed yearly.

Click on this link to jump over to the AHC/NCAL website for for more info. I had hoped to get this post up for you sooner, when this was first announced in early April, but life gets busy- assessments need to be done, CAA's need to be CAA'ed, the kid needs to go to the dentist, the laundry needs to be done, the dog "visited" the carpet..... y'all know how it goes.

Photo by Kevin Harber via Flickr

Whew--  now that we've reached an agreement with the MPLC (which does not have a ten year limit like the previous agreement) and we know how to hook up our Wii to the Internet, check with your Administrator about whether or not your facility is exempt and then fire up the popcorn! I do have to say that I think this agreement is another step in changing the public's perception of our facilities. They aren't "the old folks home" or the "rest home" were people only go to die. They are HOMES, with vibrant, exciting people living there who are still interested in living a full and fun life.

Finally- my most sincere apologies about being incorrect on the licensing issue. That will teach me to swallow what I want to hear, hook-line-and-sinker, without double checking it for myself, no matter who is saying so. It is a dead issue now, or rather a settled issue, if you follow the rules but I do apologize for giving you information that was not correct and up to date. I have eaten most of the humble pie.

Image via

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Paper Strip Collages, Part 2

Hi, welcome back. Remember this guy? In Part 1 of our Paper Collages project we looked at the basics of how to put one of these together. Today we'll take a look at some quick ways to adapt this project for different  ability levels. So grab your glue and scissors and let's get busy.

The basics of putting this collage together involves cutting strips of paper and gluing them together  on a backing board. But sometimes all of that cutting and color and fiddly strips of paper can be too much to process for some of our folks. I used the analogy in Part 1 of looking at a menu full of delicious looking food and not being able to decide what you want to order. Then, of course, you start to feel pressure from your dining companions to hurry up and pick something. You end up flustered. Well, that's not how we want our residents to feel at the end of a group. The last time I did this project, one of the participants, a lovely woman with early but progressing dementia, simply shut down after the paper selection phase of the project. I had limited the choices but there was still more visual input than she was used to and a good bit more talking, laughing and general activity than normal for her. (She came to us from a lovely but small and quiet assisted living facility). She leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes, and stated that she didn't know why she was suddenly so exhausted. A volunteer assisted her to a quieter end of the table under the excuse that they needed more room to spread out and they worked on her project together just slightly apart from all the other activity going on. This is the project she completed. You can see that three paper choices and one ribbon length provides plenty of visual stimulation.

In Part 1, I suggested pre-cutting strips of paper, which is a good way to deal with choice over-load (as well as craft table mayhem). Just pass the baskets of pre-cut paper around the table. You can suggest picking favorite colors, colors of a local sports team, or complementary colors (those across from each other on a color wheel).

I have done this project where the patients selected their paper and did all of the cutting. Some folks can do that without any issues. One of the participants that day, however, was freaking out- literally- because her paper wasn't cut perfectly straight. The burden of her perceived failure at this activity, no matter how much I encouraged her that it was supposed to look "organic", was felt by the entire group.

To limit the anxiety of having to make too many choices or manipulate too many strips of paper, consider increasing the size of your strips. Fewer strips would be needed to fill the project. For this collage, we still have three paper choices and some ribbon (my folks were really into the silver ribbon this day, for some reason).

If you need an even more basic approach, it's easy to change up your beginning point. Start with one piece of paper that will serve as the background for the entire collage. This of course requires more pre-cutting but utilize those volunteers and residents who want something to do. Make cardstock templates of the size(s) you need and let them go at it.

From there, you (or the resident) can decide how many strips of paper to add. Three difference papers... 

... two different papers...


... or just one paper choice.


From this point you can leave as is or add ribbon. Again one choice/length...


... or more. The sample below shows one background paper, one strip of paper added, and multiple lengths of ribbon. Once you add an embellishment on the front you have a perfectly lovely college.

OK, secrets out- I didn't glue all of these collages together, just layed them out. Conserving resources, going green. Save all of your scrapbook paper, even the small peieces. We'll be using them in the future.

The example below consists of one background paper and two- only two- strips of paper. The shazaam comes in the ribbons. 

The two strips of paper are in the top half of the collage. The bottom half of the collage is divided with ribbon lengths. And this is also an example of a monochromatic color scheme, Easy, huh? I guarantee that you have residents who will knock out some incredible collages.

One last suggestion, if you want to eliminate the ribbon or add an option, based upon your groups ability level, you can cut your paper strips with those scissors that cut a decorative edge.

I've shown you all of these options to help arm you for this project, to give you ideas and suggestions that you might offer to your residents. If you think of more suggestions, which I'm sure you will, I would love it if you shared with us.

Just a thought to finish up here today- I like to challenge my patients with the crafts and creative projects we do together. Not all, of course, but so many have never seen anything but the crafts their kids and grandkids bring home, knitting and crocheting, or the funky crafts from the 1960's. Don't get me wrong- all of these crafts are perfectly legitimate and the value of them, like all creative pursuits, lies in the response of the participant. Do they like to do it? Sometimes, patients will look at a project and I can see them ruling it out. They often have a preconceived idea than just because they've never seen it or it looks hard, they conclude that they can't do it. Balderdash! I joke that all of my projects are easy, otherwise I wouldn't be able to instruct them. And they don't need to let on, once they complete a project, just how easy it is. Gently encourage your folks that they can do it. There's no contest at the end of the group for the best project. There are no winners, there is no right or wrong. You've probably already experienced how the most unlikely resident can turn out the most surprising solutions and ideas. And don't you just love it when a resident looks at a project with complete surprise and exclaims that they would have never thought they could do it? I love it when that happens!

Go have some crafty fun and thanks for stopping by today.