Laughter and joy can be heard in the halls of the Latino Geriatric Center, as Adult Day Care Program Coordinator Nelva Olin recites a common "dicho" or folk saying and asks the elders to repeat. The phrase, Pan es pan, queso es queso, no hay amor sino hay un beso, brings back memories in these Alzheimer's clients of their first kiss, and despite the fact that most are living with dementia and memory loss, they are recalling other experiences in their youth.
This activity is part of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project (APP). The APP was founded in 2004 in Santa Fe, New Mexico by poet Gary Glazner and has held 300 programming sessions at 75 facilities. The Latino Geriatric Center is part of a pilot to create Spanish language programming. It is a simple idea: read classic poems to the patients that they might have learned as children. APP finds, even in the late stages of the disease, that people can remember words and lines from poems from their youth; reciting poetry helps spark memories.
Several program participants in UCC's Adult Day Care are in late stages of Alzheimer's and have a hard time holding a conversation or, in some cases, even speaking. Following along with poems from the participants' youth can trigger emotional responses and can remind participants of their pasts. Often an individual in late stages of Alzheimer's will not recognize family members, and eliciting response through familiar poems can bridge the gap and create the emotional connection. APP is about sparking memories.
For the pilot, APP is exploring the use of dichos or folk sayings that are passed mouth to ear, from one generation to the next. They serve as advice, or warnings, and are often funny. Similar in Haiku in length and in their passing on of wisdom, we have found a high level of response in people living with dementia. In the first session was an hour long session led by Nelva Olin, she began by using the APP technique of call and response. The session leader says a line of the dicho and has the group repeat after her. It is key to say the lines with enthusiasm and clarity and to get the group to match your level of energy. Once the group was warmed up by saying the dicho and laughing at the words, Nelva continued by asking each person to talk about their first kiss. This led to an enthusiastic response from each of the 12 participants. It seems each person has a story about their first kiss. The stories provoked contagious laughter.
Future sessions are already planned and program staff, and coordinators from UCC and APP anticipate that it will continue to have a positive effect and bring laughter and memories to the clients.