A story by Michelle, sharing the reflections of her family on the role of dance in Rita, her mother’s life, both before and after her diagnosis with dementia.
My name is Michelle. I am the daughter of Rita and Trevor and have an older brother, Russell. I’m writing this on behalf of us all; as a family. Mum has always loved dance and music. When mum was young she learnt how to tap dance and I followed in her footsteps. We all remember how mum would get up on the dance floor at family and social gatherings; she loved to enjoy herself and would always try to get us all to join in. Music and dancing had such a positive impact on Mum’s emotional health and wellbeing; we loved watching musicals together and she was always listening and singing along to Billy Fury; her pop idol.
Mum was diagnosed with Dementia in August 2015; she was 71 years young. A few years prior to the diagnosis, mum and dad joined a tea dance group at Stargaze Dance Academy, Alfreton, and they began ballroom dancing together. I remember accompanying the tea dance group to the Tower Ballroom at Blackpool where they danced together to the famous Wurlitzer organ and I was amazed and proud of them both; memories I will cherish forever. Mum and Dad continued to attend the tea dances until she struggled to remember the routines and didn’t want to go anymore. This was very sad and upsetting for us all as we knew how much mum loved to dance.
Dad found out about a dance project, Care to Dance, organised by The Connection Space Community Interest Company, at Matlock, through one of the carers who came into help with Mum each morning. The carer was extremely positive about the benefits that the classes could offer Mum. My brother and I encouraged him to take mum along and he decided to give it a go and see if mum would settle without him being there with her. After Mum attended the first class, Russell and myself were thrilled when Dad said that it had been an extremely positive experience for Mum. Dad felt happy as Mum was settled and calm going into the class and was always happy and relaxed afterwards when Dad collected her. Dad was able to have an hour to himself whilst Mum was in the class, and the activities offered provide stimulation and calmness for Mum; which is so important for them both.
I contacted Mary Derrick from Care to Dance asking for a little background into what Mum would do during the classes so that we could try to interact with Mum about it. Mary explained that they used themes (eg colours, clothing, songs etc) during the classes. Mum cannot communicate verbally very much but when we talked to her about the theme she became very animated and tried to explain things to us; she would smile and laugh; which is fantastic as we know that this has had a positive impact on her and she is still able to enjoy dance and music.
Mum and Dad are our priority and seeing them both happy after these sessions makes us feel positive about it all. Mum responds well to shiny, flowing material and also to classical music and Mary let me know of a song that mum loves and responds to. Mary also gave Dad a CD on which she had recorded some of the music they use in the classes so that we can listen to it together.
We feel that communication is so important between families and friends supporting people with memory difficulties and Care to Danceprovides the opportunity for this to happen. We feel that this is so important and precious because we can interact with Mum and, more importantly, she can interact with us about something we know she is passionate about.
70 Stories for 70 Years
These stories represent personal experiences of the impact of creativity, culture and the arts on health and wellbeing. They have been collected by the Culture, Health & Wellbeing Alliance (CHWA) to celebrate the 70thAnniversary of the NHS in 2018.
If you have a story you would like to share, please do get in contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are publishing these stories as a collection on the new CHWA website, and will be promoting them using social media from the end of 2018 leading up to the first CHWA Annual Conference in March 2019.