If you have ever used a tow rope on a bunny hill while skiing then you are very familiar with the fine line of being jolted and tugged once you grab on and the moment when the rope is moving faster than you can manage at the time, sliding between your gloved hands causing a rising heat in your palm as you quickly calculate if you should grab on or let go.
This balancing act is very similar to providing activity programming for persons living with dementia. At one moment you may grab on at just the right time, finding great success, wild participation and a sense of exhilaration as you reach the summit, knowing you created moments of joy for everyone.
At other times, the rope burns you, you cannot grab on fast enough experiencing the “Stop and Go” of your residents’ needs. You attempt at balance but find your arms jolting you forward, pulling you along with your feet firmly planted, landing squarely on your face.
Each day has a mix of these experiences, just as a day at the ski park does. Some treks up the mountain are good as you feel the cool wind in your face, ambitious to reach the top and successfully snow plow down. Other moments YOU ARE the roadblock, holding up the line of skiers behind you, hearing audible frustrations as you regain footing, untangle your skis and trying again.
This is my experience with creativity. Some of us are just more creative than others. Both my Activity Assistant and I struggle with art ideas. We pintrest, google search and peruse through magazines to spark an idea and yet have small turnout (because residents leave frustrated) where the accommodations often outweigh the finished product (which is fine, but exhausting nonetheless). I find I can toe the rope, so to speak, with reminiscing, life review and more direct communication. My activity assistant excels at exercise programs, She just flies to the top and watches each resident smile with exhilaration. Between us we can tag team to have a holistic day. Yet recently my Assistant asked me to teach her to become more creative with crafts.
I pondered the question,”Can you teach creativity?” As I consider my own short-commings I am aware that there are things my daughter and son can do that I will never achieve. My daughter can draw free hand in an amazing way. My son can mix spices, herbs and meats to create a delicious meal. I cannot do either no matter how much I watch them and attempt to emulate them. I see them grab the rope and glide to the top of their creative nature with ease. I stumble, fall and often become the roadblock in my own way.
Pondering further I realize that I may hold too tightly to the rope, wanting to guide it, rather than allowing it to guide me. This is the essence of successfully finding creativity, even among genres that we struggle with. We must let go of the rope. We must find our footing and allow the rope to guide us. At times the rope will slip through our fingers and we must re-set our minds and our expectations. Each attempt will give us more insight into the nature of the rope, how it moves, and how we must present ourselves to have the greatest success.
So, I say to my Activity Assistant, much like on the ski slope, Let Go of the Rope. Let the moments flow through you and do not feel so bound to your ability to grab, to hold on, to look graceful. In memory care, your calendar is simply a guide, suggestions as to how a holistic day should be. But even in our own personal lifes, a holistic day is beyond our control. Some days are filled with tasks, others take a toll on our bodies. A day that equally provides rest, relaxation, exercise, healthy meals, time with family and friends and purposeful work is few and far between. We can attempt to create this everyday for our folks, but we must go with the flow, grab the rope when we can, let go of the rope when it is more appropriate for the wellbeing of our residents.
With creativity, enjoy the process, make a mess, be OK with the mess, allow the mess to be the end goal. Its the attempt to grab the rope knowing that you will fall. That is the creative process. Consider: Aim, Frame, Reclaim and Exclaim.
Aim: Try your best to follow the calendar,
Frame: do your best to provide your residents what they need to be successful, Reclaim: readjust and LET GO OF THE ROPE before you get frustrated and then, Exclaim in your moments of joy.
That may be where creativity is born. Try new things, allow your residents to be your rope, to guide you in their preferences. You may find that grabbing on to that rope brings more satisfaction to the moment and may spark a creative endeavor for the future.