Dementia….

And how the Magic Mad Hat approach can help to ease the symptoms, hence struggle to live with Dementia.

I am currently in the process to obtain the Dementia Awareness certificate, provided online by the Alzheimer Society.

My reasons for it are that firstly, I would like to know exactly what Dementia is in order to be able to illustrate in a professional manner how the Magic Mad Hat approach can really help to ease the struggle for people and their carer living with dementia.

In addition, I hope with this certificate I will be able to offer my service within the NHS system, i.e. hospitals.

The certificate consists of three chapters, and I will illustrate how the Magic Mad Hat approach is related, helpful as well as beneficial accordantly to the thesis provided by the Alzheimer Society.

Chapter one: Understanding Dementia

Definition: ‘The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss, changes in mood or behaviour or difficulties of thinking, problem solving or language.’ (Alzheimer Society)

The exact cause of dementia is still a bit a mystery; however, it is clear that it occurs through damage to the brain, leading to death of brain cells – and we all know, that the brain cells are the only cells in our body, which do not regenerate themselves again.

Dementia is an umbrella term for a number of ‘diseases’. Talking of ‘diseases’, I personally rather NOT use this terminology in connection with Dementia, as it strongly involves, mainly elderly, slightly confused and helpless people. Therefore, using the term ‘disease’ could lower their self-confidence, make them feel more insecure as well as would give them a sense of ‘something is terribly wrong with me’. I don’t find this very helpful or reassuring – But this is my personal view – you might not agree.

The two most common types of Dementia are Alzheimer and Vascular Dementia.

Alzheimer:

The brain cells are surrounded by abnormal deposits of protein and twisted fibre.

Symptoms and how the Magic Mad hat can ease these issues.

  • Memory loss for recent event – The Magic Mad Hat approach encourages the person to stay in the PRESENT moment, which eliminates the need of remembering. This also encourages the person to act on impulse, rather than over thinking. Within a group the person is creating a little story, a little scene or creating new songs. Often, the person doesn’t know the ‘right’ lyrics for the song – which is actually a good thing, as I encourage the person to create with whatever comes up in the person’s mind.
    In the session, no one will ever have to ‘remember’ anything, which eliminates a lot of insecurity. And because there is no such a thing as ‘failure’ the person feels at ease with himself and therefore find it easier to engage with his creative thinking. Eventually everyone comes up with the ‘right’ answer.
  • Word finding difficulties – With games such as ‘word ball’ (working with association), ‘Magic Box’ or even ‘Sound and Movement’ I engage the person to stay in the present moment and say any word what comes to their mind spontaneously. At the beginning everyone is a bit unsure, and over thinks their next word, but latest by round two, everyone in group is relaxed enough to just let go and shout out what comes into their mind.
    The great benefit of these games is to let go from insecurities, fear and embarrassment. Instead reinforcing spontaneously reaction, feel secure about themselves as well as embracing failure – as there is no such as thing as right or wrong. It also animates the person, feeling free to express themselves as therefore are not afraid to say the ‘wrong’ word. With limitations, such as low self confidence and fear eliminated, the person’s creative thinking is activated, and used to improvise. After all you can use different words for the same meaning – as long as we get the right message across.
  • Anxiety – The improvised Comedy approach is well documented and used to help to overcome anxiety. World famous schools, such as ‘Secondcity’ in Chicago as well as the ‘School of Laughter’ are famous for their great success in helping people to overcome anxiety. The ‘secret’ is the open –minded, non judgmental engagement and interactions via games and exercises. Within a group people learn to relax, to embrace their silliness and have fun together. Furthermore, being in the present moment eliminates the negative thought process usually connected to anxiety. With increasingly confidence, and the practise of being in the ‘NOW’, the person almost ‘forgets’ all the negative, anxious thoughts. AND of course, having fun and a very good laugh ALWAYS lightens up everyone’s spirit.
  • Lack of motivation – FUN is motivating. Meeting people is motivating. Being creative is motivating. Being allowed to freely express your self is motivating. Improv IS MOTIVATING!
Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia is second most common type of Dementia. Brain cells die as a result of a reduction or interruption in blood flow to the brain due to diseased blood vessels.

  • High Cholesterol
  • High Blood pressure

It also can be caused by a stroke or by a series of little strokes.

Symptoms and how the Magic Mad hat can ease these issues.

  • Slowed thinking: Firstly what is the rush? To start every session I engage the group in warm up games, to loosen up their mind, made them laugh straight from the beginning and animate everyone to feel free to make different noises, sound and expressions. Again I make sure everyone stays in the present moment, therefore, no one needs to really think. In every session, ad hoc responses are encouraged. If a person takes their time to think of the right reply, I make sure to take them away from this way of reacting; instead I make sure, they feel free, secure enough to come out with whatever comes to their mind. Over time, the thinking process as such is less applied, ad hoc responses overtake the conversation and confidence is reinstated.
  • Problem with planning: The beauty of being in the present moment is that we don’t have to think ahead, instead create in the present moment. I do believe a lot of these ‘brain blockages’ are reinforced by putting ‘pressure’ on to the person, to say, to plan or to react a certain way. Within my session, there is no pressure; instead there is a lot team support. Within the group stories are created, planned ahead through listening to the team members. Awareness, instead of pressure, team effort instead of expectations and a lot of laughing helps each person to relax, to be themselves in the present moment and therefore being able to ‘plan’ at their own time.
  • Decision making: Why do we always have to make a decision? Why can we not just be? Be here and now and enjoy what is…In the Magic Mad Hat session, no one has to make a decision. No one has to do anything they don’t feel like doing. People can just sit and observe. It has happened that some participants didn’t feel like taking part – BUT only for the first two rounds. Then they voluntarily decided to join the fun, to engage the best they can as well as just being a part of the team. Remove the pressure and the expectation and you will see everything runs smoothly. Take time – and the ‘decision’ will be made…
  • Problem solving: Through games and exercises, Improvised comedy engages the person into creative thinking, reacting with the gut feeling rather than with the head. Feel the moment, and act/ react accordently. I do believe we as human tend to create problems by over-analyzing everything. If we stop over thinking situations, we realize that there are not really so many problems. This alone might lower the need for ‘problem solving’ capacities. Further, if you are present, you can feel what is right for you, you react naturally and problems are solved in a smooth, painless and organic manner. Enhanced creative, ad hoc thinking enables you to stay touch with you inner true self, hence you don’t need to think anymore to ‘solve problems’
  • Apathy, depression & anxiety: A survey showed that a lot of elderly people are less attending or participating in the arts, due to lack of accessibility as well as that involvement with the arts is not something to be done alone. (Arts Professional)
    These factors can cause apathy, depression & anxiety also. Now the Magic Mad Hat is flexible and comes to your centre offering fun & interactive GROUP sessions. Hand on heart, every group I have given a session, I could see the light back in people eyes. The fun, the team activities as well as their own achievements during these sessions helps to regain the joy of life again. After every session at least a couple of elderly people came up to me saying:’ I really enjoyed this – PLEASE do come back’.

There are some other rare types of dementia including:

  • Mixed Dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Frontotemporal Dementia
  • Huntingdon’s Disease
  • Coricobasal Degeneration
  • Creutzfel- Jakob disease
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Binswanger’s disease
  • Korsakoff syndrome
  • Parkinson’s disease

Symptoms and how the Magic Mad hat can ease these issues.

  • Hallucinations: The Magic Mad Hat approach includes all hallucinations playfully, so it becomes a more natural way of dealing with it. It eliminates the ‘drama’, and the person can laugh about it. Bringing the person back into the Present Moment, the hallucination disappears.
  • Behavior: The Magic Mad Hat has an open minded attitude, aiming to transform any aggression, anger into playfulness and laughter
  • Speech: If you can’t say it express it otherwise, make some noise, sound or even use hand, feet and facial expression. Some of the best Improvisers using their physicality to express themselves on stage – it is super entertaining for the audiences and fun for the performer – so why not allow an older person to the same – as long as we receive the message.

Summary: With the Magic Mad Hat comedy sessions I tend to reach out to the elderly in the most humane manner as possible. I refuse to see any of my participants as disabled and encourage them to find their abilities through creativity, spontaneity, association and being in the present moment. I am hoping to encourage them to fully be themselves, to let go from programmed norms, and allow themselves to be silly, young and joyful again.

I don’t judge and I don’t see them as ‘different’. In return I am amazed what I responses I receive. Through my observations I can confirm that this approach works in terms of ad hoc responses, creative thinking and enlightening moods/ behavior. Further, I am always very touched that the majority of the participants want me back – and it saddens me, that some organizer cannot see the joy in their eyes.

My sessions are no quiet sessions; participants are allowed ‘to let their hair’ down – and why shouldn’t they not be allowed.
After all these people are our parents, grandparents who enabled us to have the life we have – I think we should allow them all to have fun and be silly again. This also helps them a great deal with living and dealing with dementia in a more joyful, easy and playful way. It enables them to laugh about themselves, rather than get frustrated about forgetting things. In addition, it reactivates their creative thinking and therefore being creative with their responses.

If you have any questions, or would like to add anything, or maybe even disagree with me – I want to hear from you.

Thank you

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