EDMONDS — The COVID-19 pandemic has been especially trying for dementia patients and their caregivers. The role of caregiver can be stressful, but the pandemic has added isolation, economic uncertainty and greater health risks to the burden.
More than 11 million Americans provide unpaid care for people living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to the latest Alzheimer’s Association report.
Three Snohomish County therapists hope their new business will give dementia patients and their caregivers some relief and enrich their lives with music, art and other creative therapies.
In June, the trio launched The Creative Dementia Collective.
At 4 p.m. Sunday they’ll discuss their approach to mental health at the Edmonds International Women’s Day, a free two-day virtual event on Sunday and Monday. For information go to: bit.ly/3b9d2Hi.
“Jael Weinberg is an art therapist. Erin Staadecker is a dementia educator and I’m a music therapist,” said Kaylee Allen, who has a music therapy degree from Boston’s Berklee College of Music.
“We try to bring a freshness to talking about dementia, an otherwise taboo topic,” Staadecker said. “There’s a lot of myths out there about what it means to live with dementia.”
Here’s how it works:
They begin by consulting with the family or caregiver to see “if our services would be a good fit,” Allen said. Then they create a custom plan that can include art, music and talk therapies.
“Say a person living with dementia was a vibrant, talkative world traveler, but dementia has made her withdrawn,” Allen said.
To preserve her vibrant legacy and draw her out, they might recommend creating a photo book, an interactive map of her travels and a playlist of songs that reference the cities she visited, Allen said.
Education to help family members understand how dementia changes the brain and perceptions is also part of the package, Staadecker said.
“Once people better understand the disease, they can care for them from a place of compassion,” Staadecker.
Families then choose a plan based on the number of therapeutic sessions.
Allen’s father is a long-hauler who’s lived with dementia for 25 years. For his 64th birthday, Allen surprised him with a visit to a professional sound studio in Seattle.
“He grew up playing in bands. He was a musician and is still a musician at heart,” Allen said.
Friends and family joined her at the studio and played the instruments and background vocals for their rendition of “When I’m Sixty-four” by the Beatles.
“We then brought my dad into the studio and had him record the lead vocals,” Allen said. “We got to hang out as a family and take home a beautiful recording of my dad and my siblings singing.”
Janice Podsada; email@example.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods