It has been more than a year I haven’t been to the department of Young People with Dementia (Bosweg) because of a big reorganisation followed by financial cuts. I don’t get paid for these visits but one of the consequences of this reorganisation is that each department must now organise its own activities and I’m attached to another department. So I wasn’t sent there anymore. Luckily, I recently happened to meet someone I already knew from this department and I found my way in again. I was really looking forward to it and to see the patients again. My appointment was today and it turned out to be one of the heaviest visit I made. Continue reading Bosweg October 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.
Summer is often a busy period for musicians. Last month, I had some nice performances in festivals and summer school. I’ll get back to them later in other posts. I missed my monthly visit at the dementia care house in July because I was performing abroad. Luckily, I was available to go there in August, last week.
It was very hot when I went to the dementia care house last Tuesday for my monthly visit to the elderly people there. They were sheltering in the shadow and the first group I visited was watching a documentary with pictures of mountains and snow. How refreshing! They weren’t that happy when A. turned off the television and even though I played some music from the north of Japan, it was challenging to pass on to them through my breath a feeling of cool air. Most of them did appreciate my musical interlude though, especially a tiny old woman, Mrs M., cuddling a big cuddle dog she always carries around. She loves music and spontaneously hums along with an evident pleasure. Two people were sleeping and two others were waiting to get the television back, but she was the one who was going to give me the biggest surprise of the day. Continue reading Summertime
April 25 – May 23
Back today to the dementia care home where I’ve been playing for elderly people since 2014. Between today and my last visit on April 25, I gave three very different performances: the Requiem of Jenkins in the concert hall in Middelburg with orchestra, choir and soloist ; the musical show “Fureidesu” with the storyteller Gerard Jellema in Rotterdam, and the opening of the exhibition “Les Petites Peurs” by S.P.A.M. van Griensven also in Rotterdam. Different places, different audiences, different ways of listening, different ways of playing. And here I am today, back in Nijmegen for my monthly visit to the elderly people cuddling their Teddy bears, playing with toys and desperately roaming in the corridors trying to find their way home.
What a difference.
What am I going to play today?
One reason I started this blog is to write about my visits to people with dementia, visits I started in April 2014. Playing shakuhachi for them is a strong and inspiring experience. From the very first day, I felt the urge to write about it, to talk about them. And I started to collect stories.
Although I mainly play for old people, I sometimes visit another building where the “young people” live. Quite a shock to realise that some of them are around my age. I only knew Alzheimer’s disease as the most common cause of dementia. With my visits to the Young people, I discovered Pick’s disease, a disease where symptoms begin in people between the ages of 40 and 60. Different age, different behaviour, different stories.
Here is a text I wrote in October 2014.
Monthly visit at the dementia care home
From my audience in the department called “Iris”, two people passed away. One of them was Mrs Kisses. She was 90. I’m happy to have met her, to have had time to write a few lines about her, and to remember her thanks to the nickname I gave her, which instantly brings back memories, which her real name doesn’t. I won’t forget her kisses.
Sakura Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)
It was a grey rainy day so I decided to play the song Sakura Sakura, with all kind of variations and introductions, to bring some Spring feeling to the patients. That was much appreciated. It feels good to see that the seasons still mean something to the patients, even though most of them don’t go outside anymore.