September 2017

My last visit to the dementia care house was nice again. It sounds quite repetitive if you’ve read my other posts about my visits, although it is each time different. I never know what is going to happen and I am always a little bit nervous what to expect. How can you prepare yourself to the unexpected?

Last time, I was in a busy period, I was tired, I wanted things to get done, and there I stand, waiting for A. to finish an endless conversation with people of the department, starting to get annoyed, thinking “this has nothing to do with me, I have so many other things to do”. And then I take my flute out of my bag and start to play to warm up, which I normally never do because I don’t need to, but today I do. It is not to warm up the flute, it is for me to calm down, to open my heart and be ready to meet the patients. And it works. A few breaths and my stress is gone, the outside world can wait, I’m happy to be here, I’m ready.

Verbal and non-verbal communication

There were two strong moments during my last visit. One was a woman whose birthday was celebrated. She sits in the middle of attention, in a nice white blouse with a boutonniere. She has no idea how old she is turning that day (A. asks her), but she looks happy to have her family around her. A. asks if they agree I play some music for them and they react with enthusiasm. I think it is appropriate to play “Happy Birthday” and that they would start to sing. I play but they remain silent. I repeat it again. Then a few voices accompanies me. I realise then that it is not what they sing in Holland for a birthday, and I have kind of the blank “how does this song go again…” I feel afterwards a bit stupid I couldn’t switch at that moment  to “Er is een jarig hoera” because it just didn’t pop up to my mind… no long enough in Holland, not enough birthdays experience here. Next time better.  Then I switch to Japanese music and it goes fine. Some people of the family enjoy it a lot and ask a few questions, it is also nice to be able to communicate with words. The “Jarige” keeps smiling all the time and eats her cake with evident pleasure.

The second nicest moment of the visit was with a very old man I have met quite regularly in the corridors but never played for him. As he is wandering in the corridor again, A. asks him if he would like to listen to some music. We go to his room, A. is not allowed to seat on the chair but on a little stool, and I start to play. I notice very quickly that he has difficulties with high tones and hard sounds so I play low and soft. He starts to relax and enjoys the music. A. knows he used to play harmonica and asks him if he would like to play today. She finds the music instrument in his drawer and he starts to blow some notes with evident pleasure. I accompany him with the shakuhachi and we play a few minutes together. Eventually he gets tired and stops, and then says: “I enjoyed it. And you?” Of course I did. The power of music.






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