Misperception of “reality”

So this week I begin my training with the Alzheimer’s Association, and I’m looking forward to developing an in-depth knowledge about this disease.  I have already learned some important things through some of the lunch-and-learn events I have attended.  Even though I might not use the right terminology, I’ll share one with you.

“Back in the day”, a person’s misperception of reality was handled in a completely different way.  For example, if an elderly lady were to say, “Have you seen my mom today?”, people were to respond in a way as to orient the person to reality.  So one would say, “No, your mother died several years ago, remember?”  What this succeeded in doing was making the death of this person’s mother an instant, current reality.  It’s as if she JUST learned that her mother died, obviously causing her extreme distress.  This distress should never be underestimated.  For her, this “new” information is REAL, even though it happened long ago. 

The current way, and actually a much more effective way, to handle this situation would be to simply say “No, I haven’t seen your mom today” and then redirect the person’s attention to something different.  That’s the truth and she won’t be traumatized again by the loss of her mother.  And (fortunately and unfortunately) in a few minutes, she’ll probably forget she even asked.

Bottom line – why create a situation in which people with dementia could be re-traumatized by past unpleasant events.  There is enough to cope with in the present without having to be reminded that they can’t remember something from the past, especially something unpleasant and obviously beyond any control.  Keep their current “reality” going in a positive direction and always remember they are doing the very best they can to keep things straight.

As far as yoga, class yesterday went great!  We have added some silly, non-yoga “poses” that make everyone laugh.  I added in some strength-building exercises that everyone admitted were challenging, and I’m doing two sets of a standing series to help with balance.  And I can tell balance in the group is DEFINITELY improving.  I told them that every week we work together, all these poses will become easier and easier, and then I’ll have to figure out something NEW to challenge them with.  Everyone seemed eager to find out what the “new thing” will be.  What a terrific group!

And what a great journey thus far.  I’ll keep you posted!

Be well.

Moving Forward

Class yesterday was terrific!!  I have been working with the group on a seated Sun Salutation series.  Yesterday, we did the series both seated and standing.  And they did great!  If they got tired, they sat down and followed along doing the seated version of the poses; so everyone was able to participate at their level.  We also did Warrior I, and they did great!!  So next week I am going to add Warrior II and maybe a few other standing positions. 

I was also able to identify a couple of places where we need to do some additional strength building; so next week I’ll work in some poses to address those issues.

I am moving forward in my “master plan” as well.  I have decided to focus developing my teaching to three groups:  (1) individuals with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s Disease; (2) caregivers; and (3) “teams” of each segment.  I would like to go to retirement centers for the first group (as I am doing now with Heather Heights of Pittsford); I would like to offer gentle and restorative yoga to caregivers, in order to give them a break, and some peace and quiet; and I’m thinking of offering some type of program where the caregiver and the individual with dementia actually practice together.  I would think this would offer a great “team building” experience for them if they participate in something together.  This idea may not be feasible at all, but as I learn more, I’ll be able to either develop or dismiss this possible program.

I start my training with the Alzheimer’s Association next week, and hopefully I’ll be able to add more substantive information to this blog going forward.  But for now, my teaching experience is showing me that these individuals are enjoying the practice and are getting stronger and more confident each week and more willing to try new things.  And I’m loving every minute of it.


Changing directions

The first week of teaching, I had a plan all in mind of what I wanted to do, including some standing poses involving balance.  I had an idea that some wouldn’t be able to do that, but I was prepared.  Or so I thought.

The problem wasn’t in balancing; the problem was standing up and simply moving behind the chair for support.  There were a few people who simply couldn’t understand that I wanted them to walk around behind their chair.  This was something I was not prepared for.  I tried it again the next week, but it was still a struggle for some.

I have since modified the practice to include standing poses in which we simply stand up from our chairs and practice from there.  I obviously don’t want to do any balancing poses right now (without that extra support of the chair), but perhaps down the road, as leg strength and confidence builds, we can try moving behind the chairs again.

My take away from this was to simplify the yoga practice even further, explaining poses slowly in very small, simple steps, with lots of demonstration. 

I didn’t teach last week (I was out of town), so I’m really looking forward to my class tomorrow and the new lessons I will learn from my students.  They are great teachers.