The Alzheimer’s Association Hudson Valley Chapter is offering a special three-session creative arts program this fall for people with dementia and their family members who care for them. Something for Alz: Poetry for Connection and Reflection will be led by Mary Farkas, a licensed creative arts therapist with a practice at Beacon. Sessions will be held via Zoom from 11am to noon on three consecutive Wednesdays, September 23, September 30 and October 7.
“I have been working with the elderly and their loved ones for almost 15 years,” she said. “It’s a deep love of mine and I’ve always found that finding ways to emphasize communication and self-expression is essential. I’ve found a way to use poetry as a tool for self-expression, to help people communicate some of their thoughts and feelings. ”
Describing her technique, she said, “It is analogous to the work of Dr. Ann Basting, who created the TimeSlips program. It is very inspired by TimeSlips ideas and group process healing and includes everyone’s response,” she said. The TimeSlips website says it uses creative activities to help people with memory loss become more involved in the world around them.
Although poetry may seem intimidating and inaccessible to some, Farkas said his business requires no literary skills.
“I think people sometimes think of poetry as something intellectual and only for a small group of people. I’d love to fight this idea,” Farkas said. “You don’t have to love poetry; you don’t have to feel like you’re a poetry expert. It’s about coming and being with loved ones and being together in a group.”
Farkas also said verbal skill isn’t necessary to benefit from the process.
“I very much believe that if you have met one person with Alzheimer’s, you have not met them all. They are not all the same. There is a way in which words in poetry can become a safe space for all of us,” she said.
She said the process involves her reading a poem to the group, then inviting participants to react by rereading it or in any way possible.
“What we’re going to do is use a poem as a starting point. I imagine sharing the Zoom screen with words so people can see it. I want to make it as accessible as possible. I’ll invite everyone in the group to reread it, and then we’ll go from there. I often ask people what they heard? What was significant to them? Was there a favorite line? They will start reading their favorite lines and if that’s too much, I’ll ask them to read a favorite word.
He said all levels of reaction are welcome.
“I had a woman who only sang a note in her response to the poem. It was mostly post-verbal, and I reflected that in the poem, and when I read it back to her, she smiled, and I knew from her facial expression that she knew it was my way of connecting. with her, “he said.
Once everyone has contributed, Farkas creates a new poem that incorporates their answers.
“I’ve never created a group poem that I didn’t think was beautiful, because people are genuine,” and it’s always moving, “she said.
He said he often uses Mary Oliver’s poetry as a starting point.
“The reason I use Mary Oliver’s poetry so much is that it’s so real, so grounded and so truthful. And I love that she wrote to a very old age. It’s such an inspiration,” she said. “One of the things about Mary Oliver that is so amazing is that she was deeply honest in her poetry. A lot of it was about the aging process. Her poetry is a beautiful example of what it means to be honest and communicate clearly.”
In addition to being fun in itself, the experience can also improve communication for caregivers and loved ones with dementia.
“It is about the creation process and people, especially caregivers and care partners, have a chance to see what’s going on in their loved one. Often, we don’t stop and sit together to think about our underlying thoughts, and this it’s a way to welcome it into space. And maybe saying it through poetry is a little safer than saying it directly. The beauty of a group is that you will see that other people are listening to what you say. This is especially important for people with loss of memory, to remind everyone of our shared experience “.
To register for Something for Alz: Poetry for Connection and Reflection, call the Alzheimer’s Association at 800.272.3900 or click here.
Information on the Hudson Valley chapter
The Hudson Valley Chapter serves families living with dementia in seven New York counties, including Duchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. For more information on local programs and services, visit alz.org/hudsonvalley.
On the Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association paves the way for the end of Alzheimer’s disease and all other dementias by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early diagnosis, and maximizing quality care and support. His vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all dementia. Visit alz.org.