By Leah Bisiani, MHlthSc/Dip Bus/Dementia and Aged Care Consultant/RN.1
Part 5 of ‘Loneliness is the Ultimate Poverty’. Please ensure you have read parts 1-4 to appreciate this information in context.
Music- dance to the beat of your own drum
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.”
When we contemplate music as a feature of a person’s personality and recall, we appreciate the sensory stimulation and beautiful therapeutic effects and response it arouses.
The benefits aren’t unexpected, given this form of therapeutic encounter has been utilised for people living with dementia for countless years, and research supports the corporeal joyfulness, and utter bliss that music inspires, as it takes us on a person’s melodic journey.
It’s an illuminating therapy, when used correctly and the individual, specific choices and preferences of the person are honoured.
Keeping active through music maintains physical and cognitive ability and strength for longer, which in turn allows independence to be retained for longer. The endorphins that these types of therapeutic activity create also convert a sense of ill-being and confusion, to one of alertness, positivity and wellbeing.
The most pertinent benefit of music is the social interaction it can stimulate, thus fostering improved communication, empowering people to express themselves non-verbally through melody and dance.
People who live with dementia frequently connect through music, as it is more often an encounter that is recognised as a commonality that can be shared, pursuing happiness amongst the generations.
Music seems to touch the soul of us all.
I have witnessed myself, people who rarely verbalise or speak, break out into song, word perfect, due to relating to their own innate musical appreciation, and connecting into their long-term memory. Some people will clap and smile and harmonise.
You may see an unexpected little boogie or dance, or a person may kick up their heels, remembering the exquisiteness and loveliness of life through song.
Music may connect wonderful memories and bring alive again a lifecycle of charming, shining experiences, written to a sentimental melody.
It’s a moving, dazzling, glorious encounter, when used appropriately and cathartically, whilst the distinct predilections of the person are honoured through this alluring medium.
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”
In retrospect we must never disregard the fact that older people and people living with dementia have deeply intense, profound and emotional requirements, just as we do, that include being considered, needed, and valued; to have occasion to care and feel worthy; to be devoted to, and loved, in return; and to communicate emotion without restraint.
We can never place people at risk by dishonouring them nor their existence.
What we must do is appreciate and respect each lifespan, and ensure we implement everything within our power to continue life as that person knows it.
No one deserves anything less.
It may be argued, that by assisting a person living with dementia to survive in a world that is constantly changing, focusing on what they can do instead of what they can’t, understanding who they are within, and what they essentially need in life to keep their spirit whole, we may need to develop more intuitive and accurate understanding of a person’s spiritual and socio emotional needs.
“At a time when an older person is experiencing the most dramatic changes in their life, they cannot be placed in a situation where who they are, and have been, becomes secondary to the priorities and demands of where they are, or who is caring for them. Becoming older, living with dementia and/or having conditions that debilitate, does not mean losing oneself or one’s humanity. If needs are not met effectively, then that person is likely to deteriorate, thus withdraw into their own personal, lonely reality. However, if needs are met then a person is able to embrace life and their personhood once more, and again retain that distinct and integral place they hold in the world.”
Leah Bisiani, 2010
Every day is a fresh and beautiful new beginning for a person living with dementia.
From the moment they open their eyes to your sparkling smiles, and are treated with love, compassion, care and respect, then this start to the day immediately provides a positivity and wonder that can defy confusion.
It sets the scene for the rest of the day.
Within every situation there is always an opportunity for people living with dementia to feel a sense of personhood, being appreciated and respected, to be truly understood and to have those deep core experiences or feelings recognised and appeased.
Having someone experience and share your experience within the moment, may make the difference between a person living with dementia living an isolated life of suffering, sorrow, grief and despair, to one of gorgeous relationships, confidence, dignity, well-being and connection.
This more evolved method of insight into each person’s personal experience living with dementia, may lead to a reassessed conceptualisation of the influence of dementia, in which they may essentially have an additionally special, exclusive and personal experience because of their dementia.
We may then take care to a level in which we honour the partnership between the care partner and person receiving the care, and instead of a solo experience, it resonates within us and develops into a journey of togetherness, value, joy and meaning.
Let us never allow any person to lose who they are, nor the motivation required to flourish and blossom.
Instead it is up to us as human beings to nurture our own humanity to support civilisation, and value the cultivation of compassion, by respecting our vulnerable older population, and especially people living with dementia.
We have the ability, and the chance, to cease our disturbing, obscene, self-indulgent behaviour by utilising our emotional intelligence, so that we can truly engage with those in need, whilst seeking and discovering some sense of purity within ourselves.
We ought to inspire ourselves to WANT to become a better version of ourselves every day.
No person warrants the severe sentence of harsh isolation, and we are neither judge nor jury to decree it.
This is a shamefully cruel existence that we hand out so insensitively, and we cannot excuse nor justify our part in this miserable scenario, nor this outrageous crime against the defenceless.
We can acquire the ability to develop compassion, we can critique isolation and reintroduce community and culture changes, whilst humanizing our great power and precision in response to a more humane philosophy.
Bottom line: our job is to maintain happiness.
We must do whatever it takes to ensure this completeness is what the person experiences every moment of every day.
Instead, “validate me and who I have been my entire life. See ME, not the condition I live with. I am more than dementia. I am amazing and am my own story. If you bother to know me, and listen, you can be my saviour and I will never stop smiling.
Let us alleviate this pain of internal core suffering, and enable people living with dementia to live a life that is uplifting and full of joy.
“Meet me in the middle, and then you will be able to sing my song with me. I invite you to MY journey”
Leah Bisiani, 2009
Reach out and be proud to advocate and provide a voice of strength for the empathy revolution.
“Our task must be to free ourselves… by widening our circle to compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
© Leah Bisiani March. 2018. Uplifting Dementia.