Tidewater Arts Outreach Advocacy

The original post can be found on the Tidewater Arts Outreach Official Website

Through every communications means available, whenever the opportunities present themselves, we are advocating for the value of arts in healthcare, for arts and health, and for TAO’s ‘community artist as arts facilitator’ program model.
We realize advocacy is critical if we are to foster a healthy climate for arts and healing. TAO’s role in advocating for the dynamic use of arts includes informing people about their benefits in special situations, the flexibility and adaptability of the arts where limitations are present, and particularly, the great promise of utilizing the arts to reach people with dementia and to give them the means to be heard and appreciated as individuals. We are working to shift paradigms, and that takes considerable effort. Here’s what we promote:

– The value of the arts. TAO is using the arts in innovative ways in Hampton Roads. The arts build community by bringing people together in situations that are unique and meaningful. The creative processes are a means to personal fulfillment, satisfaction and inspiration for people who have special needs and who are isolated from society. The use of the arts in healthcare and crisis-care environments helps lessen feelings of pain and discomfort, affords mental stimulation, eases feelings of loneliness and frustration, and much, much more. TAO’s mission and work provides a critically important ‘value proposition’ for the use of arts in these environments. Over the past ten years, TAO has proven this value by showing that the arts can provide a significant source of recovery, hope and healing – spiritually, mentally and physically.
– The well-being of staff in congregate-care settings. We have high praise for caregivers and we advocate on their behalf. Their work is often emotionally challenging and physically demanding. It takes a special person to serve another individual with compassion and love, particularly when the work involves bathing, dressing, feeding, illness, pain, death and dying. A national statistic states that more than half of nursing home residents have no regular visitors. The staff who serve these people deserve the community’s support. And the arts provide a fun, meaningful and relatively easy way to help ease their burden and to show we care. To expand on this theme, some hospitals and homes set aside rooms for staff to make art in their free time, understanding the value of non-verbal self-expression – expressing difficult emotions that often can’t be put into words – that arts engagement affords.
– People with special needs in congregate care. A high percentage of people TAO serves are elders in long-term care. They often are feeble and frail. There are medications and dementia, making it difficult to connect. None of us wants to be without our family and friends, but it happens. All too often, people outlive their relatives and children leave home to have family and career in other areas. One staff member at a memory care facility related that too often, people choose to say goodbye to their relative when they drop them off, and they rarely or never come back. It’s probably too difficult for them to see their relative in that condition, and they may rationalize that it won’t matter anyway, because they are no longer recognized. We do not want to see old, inform people alone and isolated during their last months, days or hours of life. We certainly wouldn’t want it to happen to us. In response, we send hundreds of artists and volunteers each year to interact with people in congregate care.
– Women victims of violence, homeless families, struggling vets and people with disabilities. These disparate groups are all underserved and all fly below the community’s collective radar. Our programs serve these populations in various ways. Generally speaking, our goals are to use arts experiences to broaden horizons and to show how tapping into personal creativity can be a pleasurable pastime that strengthens bonds between people, affords opportunities for self-expression (often about difficult topics), in ways that are satisfying, non-threatening, and more meaningful than other avenues. ‘Vision boards,’ drumming, mandala drawing, power-bead bracelets, songwriting, sing-a-longs and storytelling all have been used to help define and overcome fears and frustrations, envision better tomorrows and create happier moments in ways that are within the grasp of these individuals.
Arts for people with dementia. Movies like “Alive Inside” (which we will show at the Naro on October 22) and “I Remember Better When I Paint” speak eloquently to the intellectual and emotional processes that the arts help people with dementia connect to. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that music is what their parent responded to. Group sing-a-longs, concert series, ensemble performances and drum circles are just a few ways we can use music to help engage. Then add the cultural implications of music of the islands, from the Far East, from European and other cultures that strike chords from long ago. Now you have staff seeing patients in new ways. Add children and the mix becomes more intertwined and involved.
– The TAO model of community artists as arts facilitators. We provide mentoring, online resources and formal training opportunities to help community artists understand the needs that exist for arts engagement by people with disabilities or special needs, and how to create effective programs that help address these needs. We promote experiential programs, effectively helping performers and artists of all kinds to become facilitators. Our workshops and website are resources that reinforce this training and awareness-building We ask artists to create client-centered programs and to make sure that opportunities for engagement are hallmarks of their programs.
– The value of artists in our community. We feel that artists deserve to be paid for their work. Their contributions make our community stronger. Many have devoted a lifetime to their craft, often sacrificing a great deal to be skilled at what they do. We pay artists for the services they render through TAO. We are not yet able to pay at the level we would like, and we hope to change that. As a charity, we try to make it easy for artists and others to make financial contributions to TAO. We believe that what goes around, comes around.

Yes! We will gladly speak to your group, or your friends’ group, about the benefits of the arts for people with disabilities and special needs. Email MaryAnn@TidewaterArtsOutreach.org, and thank you.

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Create|Relate Program — For People Newly Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

A partnership between Tidewater Arts Outreach and the Alzheimer’s Association, Southeastern Virginia Chapter

Originally posted from Tidewater Arts Outreach

Every hour, fifty people in the U.S. receive the dreadful news: they have been afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.  A disease that knows no cure; a disease that strikes seemingly at random; a disease that robs us of lifetimes of love, intellect, and dignity.  It is difficult to imagine receiving such a diagnosis.  By the time people go to the doctor’s to find out what is wrong, they have had difficulty or have had to stop working, driving, reading for pleasure, phoning friends to chat.  Now they are at home, isolated by the shame of their new confusion, the new normal that they know will only get much worse.

Tidewater Arts Outreach knows arts programs can offer many benefits to dementia sufferers, including stimulation, socialization, opportunities for self-expression through singing, painting, dancing, playing an instrument…and much more.  We have presented a number of workshops to demonstrate best practices for these individuals – Opening Minds Through Art and the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, to name two.  So we were thrilled to partner with the Southeastern Virginia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association to use the arts to connect, in a new way, with people who have been newly diagnosed with dementia and their caregivers.  Our first pilot project, which we called Create|Relate, was presented on May 15 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Norfolk.  In addition to arts, the series includes components of mind and body health exercises and time to connect socially with one another.  There were six couples in attendance – five married couples and one father/daughter couple.

“Drum, tap, tap…boom…yeah!” The beat of the drums created a rhythm and sound around the drum circle that was amplified by smiles and laughter. Arthur Lopez, a Tidewater Arts Outreach (TAO) artist and ‘Drum your Dream’ drum circle facilitator, knows how to work a room.  It was beautiful to witness the freedom and laughter that rippled through the group.  Arthur encouraged experimentation and assured that there is no ‘right’ way to drum. Especially empowering was the opportunity for each person to say their name and then perform a drum solo that expressed how they felt; that rhythm was then repeated by the group in a chorus. For people whose choices are limited in everyday life, this exercise of individual rhythm-making was obviously uplifting.

Create | Relate co-facilitator Carol Gurioli related what she saw:

“I was amazed to see the evident joy on the faces of each and every participant in my line of sight.  The joy was both individual and shared between each couple there.  I saw individuals walking arm in arm or conversing closely who do not normally interact with each other–I see this as evidence of the bonding power of a well-conducted drum circle. People talked animatedly afterward; before the event, most were slow moving, afterward even those using canes appeared energized.”

Some comments overheard by participants:

“This is the most I have seen my wife smile in the last six months.” (Spouse whose wife has a younger onset form of dementia which affects her eyesight and speech)

“I loved how the instructor was so positive.  We need more ‘positive’ in our lives.” (Diagnosed individual)

“Can’t wait for the next one.  We will definitely be here.” (caregiver husband and wife)

“I will put in for leave from work to be sure I can bring my dad each time.”

During the early stages of the disease it is common for people to withdraw socially while their activities decrease. Create/Relate arts programs help mitigate these challenges by providing other ways to connect and engage.  The arts – all of the arts – can build community, create happiness, inspiration, hope,healing and opportunities for self-expression.  New research shows that the area of the brain responsible for imagination and creativity is one of the last areas to be affected by dementia.  The brain, even a brain damaged by disease, responds positively to stimulating experiences.  By showing dementia sufferers that artistic activities can be appropriate and fulfilling, we are giving them new tools to cope with their illness.

There will be two pilot programs in total for Create|Relate, with the second on June 19.  We are grateful to sponsorship by the Alzheimer’s Association SEVA chapter for their financial support of these two programs.  It costs roughly $375 to present a session.  We hope to present Create|Relate in a series of twelve twice-monthly sessions.

The arts have the power to transcend differences and circumstances, ultimately providing new ways to experience life and healing. We hope that this can be the first of many Create/Relate programs bringing more smiles of joy and healing for those in need.

Photos by Jim Knox, Knox Studios

Photos by Jim Knox, Knox Studios

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Compassionate Care for Alzheimer’s Disease Sufferers – A New Day?


“Alzheimer’s patients turn to faraway lands to be in caring hands’   by Denis P. Gray, AP 12/30/14

The Pilot shared an insightful AP article with readers yesterday.  It was a real eye-opener to learn that the cultures of Thailand and the Philippines allow for markedly healthier and happier life experiences for people with dementia, and western Europeans are choosing to have their loved ones cared for there.  Gray’s comparison of ‘an old, cold lady who gives you pills and tells you to go  to bed,’ to a caretaker who ‘sits on the grass…, gently massaging his legs and tickling his chin,’ is the difference between night and day, or perhaps happiness and despair.  How did we develop into a society that abhors aging?  Why are we getting dependent care for the disabled and elderly so wrong as a society?

Since 2004, Tidewater Arts Outreach has worked to shift paradigms toward people with special needs.  We have been creating dozens of music and arts programs and experiences each month for people in long-term care, crisis care, and other dependent-care settings.  Our work has always had a strong focus on the elderly.  While there are benefits for people of all ages to engage in creative self-expression through the arts, new research shows the positive outcomes afforded for people with dementia are even more pronounced. We have seen, many times over, the win/win situation created when engaging community artists, using the arts as a bridge, are involved in the lives of the elderly.  Sadly, we also have seen the isolation, frustration, loneliness and withdrawal that often occur in group care settings. Another depressing reality:  staff turnover in long-term care settings is 40% in many cases, greatly contributing to increased health care costs.

On January 22, Tidewater Arts Outreach brings international trainer and poet Gary Glazner to town to train workshop attendees on the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, a group process he started for creating and celebrating poetry.  On January 25 the ME Cox Center, another local not-for-profit, brings elder-care author, nurse and teacher Teepa Snow to town to present effective ways of communicating with people who have disabilities.  The elder care community needs and deserves many more programs like these to influence our perceptions of how we might care for our aged and infirm.

We have turned the act of aging into a medical condition, instead of the natural process it is. There is no cure for dementia, only a life of learning to live with it, for those suffering from this horrible disease.  We can create wonderful, living communities in America for our elderly, where compassionate care is affordable and where life is celebrated daily.  Thailand is showing us the way.  Clearly, we can do more for the growing population of people being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. We need to demand more of our healthcare system and of ourselves.

Posted in Arts and Health, Arts in Long Term Care, Community Volunteers, Dementia, Geriatrics, Holistic Healthcare, Training and Workshops | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

TAO’s First Vocal Group for Seniors

Beth Sholom Voices 2

It was Recital Day. The singers were seated, wearing black and white. Vocal coach Caroline Murphy Turco was warming up, greeting participants and checking lyrics pages. Singers smiled and said ‘hi’ to one another in greeting; looks of excitement were evident. Some participants were present one minute, then gazing absently away the next – a sign of their dementia. The large community room was filling up quickly.

The small group of singers and residents at Beth Sholom Terrace’s memory wing had come a long way from a year before, when the idea of a vocal singing group in a long-term care community was being formed.

In July 2012, Tidewater Arts Outreach ED MaryAnn Toboz approached Warren Aleck, a long-time TAO supporter, with the idea. Warren and MaryAnn reached out to the Tidewater Jewish Foundation and Beth Sholom Village, and soon we met with Philip Rovner, David Abramson and Allison Whiteman to outline what would become a year-long chorus project. David and Allison decided that their memory unit residents at the Beth Sholom Terrace would be ideal for this group. A proposal was created and TAO secured the Caroline’s services. Caroline, a young opera singer and vocal coach who gives singing lessons privately and through Hurrah Players, met with senior singers twice each month. Together they worked on breath, posture, reading lyrics, vocal warm-ups and SINGING. They sang oldies, Broadway tunes, pop hits of yesteryear and the Beatle’s “Yellow Submarine” (a favorite). Tentative at first, as the weeks went on singers became more confident.

Beth Sholom Terrace staff Nicole Gearhart related, “Our residents were motivated to come to regular practice and to sing. They were genuinely excited to participate. Music is inspirational – it makes them feel good and it makes them happy.” Program participants expressed appreciation for the on-going music series, with individuals reporting that they ‘felt better physically,’ ‘enjoyed the group experience’ and ‘learned something new.’
Caroline has a grandmother who lives with memory loss, so she is familiar with the struggles of both people living with the disease and their caregivers. But, she wrote, “working with the singers was still a very new experience, if only because each person reacted so differently…The group certainly taught me patience. I had to learn to slow down a bit. The group reacted best when it was clear that I was having fun.”
On their big day, “Participants were really excited about going down and performing for the recital,” said Nicole. As guests came into the room on recital day, the Beth Sholom Singers were clearly ready to have a good time. They were seated in the front of the room, looking elegant in black and white. “Welcome!” one singer exclaimed. “This is great!,” said another. Caroline focused everyone’s attention on the lyric sheets in hand. They launched into “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and were off, immersed in tempo and melody, and completely involved in the music they were creating together. The room, filled with residents, family, staff and friends, applauded appreciatively after each number. Caroline showed off her vocal prowess via several solo selections, to everyone’s delight.

The next stop for these singers is not Carnegie Hall. We hope it’s more celebration through regular song sessions, with plenty of help from singers and musicians in our community. With community support, many more projects, and their many benefits, are possible.

Tidewater Arts Outreach thanks Beth Sholom Village, the Tidewater Jewish Foundation and Warren and Helen Aleck for their generous support.

Posted in Arts and Health, Arts in Long Term Care, Dementia, Geriatrics, Holistic Healthcare, Music and Memory, Music Therapy, Parkinson's, Recreation Therapy, Rehabilitation, seniors, Stroke, TAO Programs | Tagged , | 3 Comments

How to Cope with an Ageing Population

This article, recently published in The Lancet, talks about quality of life concerns for our world’s aging population.  It includes an interesting summary of findings of how countries around the world fare when it comes to healthy living of its eldest members.  Not surprisingly (to those of us involved in arts and health), it ends in this way, “Success in other medical specialties means that the world’s population is getting old. To allow it to do so gracefully will require early investment and cooperation between health and social care.”

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TAO’s Recent Opening Minds Through Art Workshop

Observations on an impactful visual arts workshop presented by Tidewater Arts Outreach, in partnership with Sentara Life Care

Opening Minds Through Art?  Wow, does it ever!  I came to realize that Opening Minds Through Art (OMA) is about so much more than working with seniors who have dementia to enable them to create lovely works of modern art. Minds are opened across the board in this well-conceived process.   1.  All staff receives training about the process, learning, when, where and for how long resident art-making happens.  Staff develop an appreciation for the process and its outcomes, and are encouraged not to disrupt for unnecessary intercom announcements, pills, PT, or other ADLs (activities of daily living).  Staff also has the opportunity to get to know their patients on another, more humanizing level.  The art-making allows them to focus on residents as individuals and to see their abilities, rather than disabilities.  Many are amazed by what is still possible, and how rewarding art-work can be.

2.  Young people serve as one-on-one partners and learn about the rich histories of the artists: they were pilots, judges, Broadway actresses, CEOs, brain surgeons and more.  They better understand the human condition, the needs of the very eldest in our midst, and their own mortality.  3.  The seniors themselves have their minds opened through the process of creating art – they use logic, reasoning, executive thought processes and creative self-expression (and more).  The intellectual stimulation and the humanistic value of “What does this painting say about me?”  cannot be under-estimated in an institutionalized world where almost every individual freedom has been forsaken in the name of safety and security.

4.  Family members who may have decided months ago that there’s nothing much left but a shell or shadow of their former loved one are often amazed at the creative self-expression they witness.

Workshop participants learned this about dementia:  as intellectual abilities erode, other abilities rise to the surface.  Emotional empathy makes seniors with dementia more sensitive, and more vulnerable.   Some aspects, like creativity and personality, are the last to leave as other cognition fails.

Elizabeth Lokon founded OMA in 2008, after deciding that dementia was the most difficult prognosis she could imagine for herself.  She immersed herself in the study of dementia and in the creation of this program, and she now says, “I’m no longer afraid of it.  I discovered the essence of human potential in people with dementia.”

The OMA workshop received rave reviews from the 29 attendees.  Comments from LTC staff include, “It is a whole new way of looking at working with and improving quality of life for the elderly.”  Another wrote that “Understanding the importance of allowing people with Alzheimer’s the opportunity to use their creativity,” and “learning that art is a form of expression” were valuable lessons for her.    Sadly, another realized that “One person can’t stimulate 40 people at once!,” something that happens all too often.

At TAO we’re dedicated to opening doors, hearts and minds to the possibilities that exist for communities who embrace each other, and the arts, and who make efforts to come together to share comfort, inspiration and creativity as a charitable endeavor.  There is so much untapped human potential, on both sides or the able, if we do.  We thank Elizabeth Lokon for her beautiful process and Sentara Life Care for helping us bring her to share her work with the Hampton Roads community.


Posted in Art Therapy, Artists, Arts and Health, arts for seniors, Arts in Healthcare, Arts in Long Term Care, Community Volunteers, Dementia, Program Development, Recreation Therapy, Rehabilitation, seniors, Training and Workshops, Visual Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Funding Dilemmas for Arts and Health for Seniors

20110519_Creeekers_6152Tidewater Arts Outreach artists work with a variety of clients, in a variety of settings and with lots of great creative tools, performances and programs.  By a fair margin, the largest demographic we serve are seniors who are in dependent care day and long-term residential programs.  The residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities is a primary group for TAO, for a number of reasons:

·         Accessibility – We can schedule programs in the day-times, evenings and weekends, all over Hampton Roads, in facilities, hospitals, shelters and other congregate care settings.

·         Need – People in these facilities are often are under-served in quality of life type programs such as the arts can afford.  Mental stimulation and emotional support are so important for this group, and staff should not have to be the sole providers.

·         Artists – there is a great deal of personal reward for artists who are able to connect meaningfully with participants.  Facility staff appreciates meeting new artists through TAO.

·         Variety – The type of arts programs that seniors can participate in include poetry, songwriting, singing, dancing, playing instruments, painting, sculpting (and more).  TAO actively helps artists refine their arts offering to meet needs in long-term care.

SO… we have a waiting list of places requesting programs, and a waiting list of artists wanting to serve.  We know the need is great, the artists are ready, and we are working just as hard as we can to create amazing programs designed to inspire and delight.  And it is happening – dozens of times each month.  The survey reports we get back are fantastic – over the top ‘excellent’ ratings – but where is the funding?    What is the real value of TAO and its programs to long-term care administrators and the corporations they report to?

The programs are expensive to produce –  approximately $400 apiece.   This may seem high, but when you consider how much it costs to raise money, rent an office, and hire, train and pay the staff that directly support the work; it all adds up and it all factors into program cost.  What portion of this is realistic for the facilities to pay?  What are the competing priorities for discretionary income in long-term care?   We need to answer these questions if we are to remain successful.

TAO is looking for marketing professionals to help us assess the market and create a strategy for raising awareness and obtaining support.  It’s becoming increasingly important.

We’re considering reducing the number of programs we produce, so we can afford to adequately support everyone.   That is a sad, but true, outcome of our current financial situation.  Thank goodness culture change is coming to long-term care facilities.  We see the arts, with all their opportunities for self-expression, self-determination, identity, communication, socialization and normalization as being a key component for the culture change movement – for staff and residents alike.

My fellow baby boomers, it’s time to wake up, smell the coffee, see the writing on the wall and fix our own future, while we have a fighting chance.  The arts present a way for many of us to interact positively with those in long term care.  In the process, we are supporting the staff who have such tough jobs and who work so hard.  We are bearing witness.  We are sharing joy and helping people reclaim and tell their stories.  We’re helping artists get the means to share their special gifts, with folks who sorely need access to creativity and the benefits of creative-self expression.   It is important work.  The people we serve are important, too.   They had full lives, they contributed to society, held important jobs, raised terrific kids, and on and on.  It’s time we help each other make our very oldest society members a part of our community again.  We can fix this.  Please share your ideas and comments – and thank you for your support.

Posted in Artists, Arts and Health, arts for seniors, Arts in Healthcare, Arts in Long Term Care, Community Volunteers, Dementia, Geriatrics, Holistic Healthcare, Ilness, Music and Memory, Program Development, Recreation Therapy, Rehabilitation, seniors, Stroke | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments