Alzheimer's Poetry Project

This blog will be a place to post poetry written by people living with Alzheimer's disease. We will focus on poetry that is created as part of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project. We will post information and news about dementia. We hope this blog is of use to the family members who have a loved one with dementia.

Monday, July 27, 2015

RIP Richard Taylor...Hello My Name is Richard

Like so many people I considered Dr. Richard Taylor a friend. Richard died on June 25th, 2015. He was the most passionate and outspoken advocate for people living with memory loss. This treasured photo was taken after he testified at the Dementia Arts on Capitol Hill. The project included an exhibit of people living with memory loss participating in the arts in the The Russell Senate Office Building and a panel briefing, which was sponsored by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico.

The speakers in addition to Richard and the Senator among others included: Rocco Landesman, Chairman, National Endowment for the Arts; the Guest Poet, Stuart Hall who read poems about living with memory loss; Sunil Iyengar, Director of Research and Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts; Dr. Anne Basting, Executive Director, Center on Age & Community and founder, TimeSlips; Maria Genné, founder, KAIROS ALIVE! and Margery Pabst, Executive Director, Pabst Charitable Foundation for the Arts and author of “Enrich Your Caregiving Journey."

All of them were well spoken and articulate about memory loss and care-giving but it was Richard who brought the issue to life and who made the standing room crowd of Senate staffers and the public laugh and cry. So many of the people who attended the panel briefing on the state of Dementia Arts Research came up after the event and talked about how moving Richard's talk was.

I first met Richard at an Alzheimer's Foundation of America Conference in Dallas in 2006. It was the first time I had attended a conference on Alzheimer's where a person living with memory loss had spoken at the conference. Richard always pushed for including that voice. When I began organizing Dementia Arts on Capitol Hill, it was my great hope he would be able to attend and I organized the event around him.

When I first contacted Richard about speaking at the event, he knew I would need sponsors and he said, "Are you sure you want me? You know I can be considered quite controversial." As Richard predicted, when I was talking with a marketing person for one of the major Alzheimer's advocacy groups, the person asked about the speakers at the event and said, "You know Richard Taylor called me an angel of death." We talked it through and agreed that if we were living with memory loss, we might also have Richard's sense of urgency and frustration, at how most if not all the resources and funds raised around Alzheimer's, are put to use for a distant cure and not towards helping people today.

In the end, the Alzheimer's advocacy group, did help us to promote and get the word out about the event. I believe that although was difficult, that it helped the person to talk out how it felt to be described that way. The conversation was frank and honest and Richard loved hearing the story. I think this person's anger came in part from the guilt of knowing we really don't do enough. I know for myself that when I heard Richard speak, it always pushed me to work harder for people living with memory loss.

Below are a few of the remarks he made that day, shaped into a poem. Like so many people I am missing my friend Richard today, but take heart in his words and send to his family and all his friends thoughts of love.

Hello, My Name is Richard Taylor

It’s not complicated
understanding who I am
once you get past the stigmas.
I am Richard,
a whole human being
living with the disabilities
associated with the symptoms
of Dementia.

Please do not give up on me
when I do not voluntarily
communicate as you.

Assume the best
for me, and in me.
Speak to me
as if I am all here.

It is a moral imperative
to support those who
for no reason
of their own cannot
meet their own needs.

A clean bed, a warm meal,
surroundings that mimic a hotel-
these are the basic needs.

It is the higher level needs
you all best support.

The needs that bring a smile
to my face, a bounce to my step,
and a handshake, a hug, or a kiss
for you when you leave.

Hello, my name is Richard Taylor;
I am a retired psychologist
living with the symptoms
and diagnosis of Dementia,
probably of the Alzheimer’s type.

Why is it everyone
is so amazed when we
dance, sing, and write?
Could it be we have been
hitherto written off as being fully human?

As our symptoms increase
do our needs for happiness,
connectedness, friendship,
self-esteem decrease?
Of course not.

I will be a complete
human being until
about two minutes
after I have drawn
my last breath.

Read More of Richard's Work Here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

APP in Wisconsin on local TV

This event was made possible by Bader Philanthropies’ funding, formerly the Helen Bader Foundation and a leader in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease throughout Wisconsin. Big thanks to all the students at Altoona High School and their wonderful teacher Angela Roloson. Thanks also to Ella Shaw teacher extraordinaire, who organized the events and to her students at Durand High School.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Poetry for Life

Minds like locked boxes
Presented in the round
I used language like keys
And love is what I found
Love for the now and for history
And the love was unlocked
With the key of poetry
- Jalen Bell

So excited with get to work with talented Jalen Bell, the 2014 Poetry Out Loud, Arkansas State Champion and his family! He wrote that wonderful poem after our poetry session on Tuesday performing and creating poems with the people at Innisfree Senior Living Community in Rogers.

His younger sister Jaden also participated in the session as did his father Donovan. Jaden is preparing to take part in the National Spelling Bee. When I asked about her favorite word to spell, she said Pfeffernuesse, the German Christmas cookie. As soon as she replied one of the men in the group jumped up, went to his room and brought back a Pfeffernuesse! It was delicious!

Yes we also read the patron poem of the home, "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." The event was hosted by the Arkansas Arts Council. Big thanks to Cynthia Haas the Arts in Education Program Manager.

Poetry for Life is a pilot project to bring students who are participating in Poetry Out Loud to assisted living, adult day care and senior centers to perform and create poems with the elders.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Dementia Arts Research Article in the Washington Post

Fredrick Kunkle of the Washington Post asks, "Can Alzheimer’s be treated with the arts? Researchers aim to determine the answer."

Click here to read the full article.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institutes of Health and others are pushing for more answers. At Birmingham Green, researchers from George Mason University are conducting a federally subsidized study to examine the impact of the arts on the emotional and cognitive health of older adults.

“There still needs to be a lot of work done,” said Sunil Iyengar, who heads the Office of Research and Analysis at the NEA. Iyengar said research into the effect of art on people with cognitive impairments has suffered from a lack of rigor.

Too many studies lacked proper controls, involved samples that were too small, and were poorly defined. They also may have been looking for the wrong thing, Iyengar said. While searching for hard evidence of biological improvements in memory or cognition, many also overlooked measurable improvements in the mood and well-being of people with Alzheimer’s, and their caregivers, too.

I am thrilled to be included in the article:

“But outside of these things is sheer joy,” said Gary Glazner, founder and executive director of the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project. Glazner said he was working at an adult day-care center in Northern California and searching for ways to connect with people with Alzheimer’s disease when he discovered the power of poetry to reach people with cognitive impairment.

Having studied poetry in college, Glazner shared Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Arrow and The Song” with a resident and from the first line — “I shot an arrow” — hit the mark. Glazner uses poetry, particularly beloved classics learned by older adults, in call-and-response with older people and guides them in writing poems. Jump-rope rhymes, even military cadences, can evoke responses from people with cognitive impairment that engage them, he said.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Memory Arts Cafe Holiday Party

Wednesday, December 10th, 6pm
New York Memory Center
199 14th Street, (At 4th Ave.) Take the R to Prospect Avenue

This special holiday season Memory Arts Café will highlight
the artists of the New York Memory Center. Meet new friends and greet
old ones as we ring in the holidays with laughter, toasts and cheer.
Poet-in-Residence Gary Glazner will host the evenings entertainment.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NEA Audio Piece on the APP

Adam Kampe, Media Producer at National Endowment for the Arts has produced an excellent audio piece on the APP. He interviews Professor Kate de Medeiros of the University of Miami-Ohio on using poetry with people living with memory loss. To listen to the piece click here: NEA Audio Piece on the APP

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Australian Radio Interview

Thrilled to be interviewed on by Melanie Tait on Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio!
Click here to hear the broadcast
Brought back all the wonderful poems from last year's visit to give a workshop at the Arts and Health Australia conference including "I love a sunburnt country," by Dorothea Mackellar. The photo is from a group I worked with at an assisted living center in Sydney.
More info on the 2014 International Arts and Health Conference click here. Big shout out to Margret Meagher the conference organizer and founding executive director of Arts and Health Australia for bringing me out last year. Oh give me a home among the gum trees with lots of plum trees, a sheep or two and a kangaroo.
My Country
by Dorothea Mackellar (1885 - 1968)

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die-
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold-
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land-
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand-
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.