Drama Therapy Helps Dementia Patients Connect With OthersIn January 2011 a group of female Elders from Nanaimo Travellers Lodge began to work with certified drama therapist Kayte Summers. Kayte has over 35 years experience in the acting world, including instructing, directing and leading drama therapy groups. Nanaimo Travellers Lodge was fortunate enough to have Kayte spend time with the Elders over a period of several weeks.
Drama therapy allows for the Elders with dementia to connect with their emotions using tactical moments and interaction with objects and each other. The official definition of Drama Therapy is the intentional planned use of the healing aspects of drama in the therapeutic process.
From the first week that Kayte joined the group of Elders at NTL she was a hit. After the first week, the energetic group at the Lodge decided to name themselves the Lady Tenors, to represent the original ten that started with Kayte.
The drama therapy sessions with Kayte follows a structured format that begins with a warm-up that starts out with each participant sharing how they feel in that moment. They use a drum to use sound to express their feelings, whether it happy, sad, tired, confused, angry etc. Although the group is structured no one is forced to do anything they don't feel comfortable with. The focus is on expressing how they feel in the moment, not how they think they should feel.
After the warm-up the session builds intensity, a song that the Elders know is played and they are encouraged to move and connect with each other by holding onto a stretchy rope. The activities engage Elders, who often spend lots of time sitting, either off their feet or encourage them to move their body.
The longer the group spends with Kayte the more they come out of their shell and express themselves more freely. They begin to connect with their feelings in a deeper way, but they are also laughing and having a fabulous time. Each week a new tactile experience is introduced, from balls, to stuffed animals to fabrics to wigs to costumes. These activities use human touch, interaction to create a connection with others and help combat the isolation many Elders with dementia experience.
The group ends with a sharing session of how the participants are feeling after. The unanimous feeling from the group was that everyone was looking forward to coming back the following week. Kayte groups have been a huge success at the Lodge and have had an extremely positive effect on the Elders lives.