Using Creative Programs and Engagement Techniques in Dementia Care Communities [Interview][Transcript]

Mindy BoltonGuest: Mindy Bolton
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Mindy Bolton is a creativity coach, dementia care practitioner, and founder of Shay’s Way. Her organization utilizes the arts to improve the skills of those giving care to dementia patients.

Segment overview: Shays Way is an organization in Minnesota, USA that strives to enrich dementia care through creative programming; infusing long-term care with the arts on both the personal, family level as well as professional care facilities.


Health Professional Radio – Shays Way

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard for this Health Supplier Segment. Our guest in studio is Mindy Bolton, a Creativity Coach, and Dementia Care Practitioner who utilizes Improvisational Theater Techniques, Visual Arts, Literature, Music and even Dance in order to engage those who are suffering with Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s. And also to give creativity coaching to those who are giving care to dementia sufferers. She is here today to talk with us about her involvement in “Shay’s Way,” an organization that is seeking to help those who are either caring for dementia care patients or who will be caring for dementia care patients to engage in creative thinking in order to improve the quality of life of their patients. Good afternoon Mindy.

Mindy Bolton: Good afternoon, thank you for having me.

N: Thank you. You are involved with an organization called “Shay’s Way” in Minnesota. Talk about Shay’s Way.

N: Basically I have to study in community art and also working in care environments I’ve recognized the necessity of focusing on creative thinking as well as critical thinking, and to basically be the support system for people who are in caregiving environments that are going to get more infused with people who living with dementia due to the trajectory where we’re going as a society in the aging population. So what I found is this niche for more engagement in activity, specifically in the creative realm to help people with the day in and day out of caregiving, and also living a life with dementia symptoms. So Shay’s Way is the beginning of what I would ideally call a movement and something that will grow as people create more partnership between artist and healthcare professional, so that people who have dementia can lived beyond their diagnosis, and can fly essentially and connect with the young and young adults and everyone blending together. So it creates stronger communities and ignites ideas for programming.

N: Does Shay’s Way involve creativity coaching and dementia care to professional facilities in addition to the general population?

M: Yes. So essentially Shay’s Way right now is beginning as a platform for me to tell people ‘This is an idea and I’m tapping into you as somebody who for example works in a care environment and is perhaps even on a development team that focuses on wellness’ or ‘I’m also talking to you who might be at home caring for their loved ones and feeling isolated, and feeling drained of ideas.’ And so it’s essentially sort of “consulting” which I prefer to call “coaching” but on the level of let’s see let’s start fill out what people need and were this can go. And also at the same time tapping into the artist community and finding a lot of artist thing, for one they can find an outlet to use. And or also they want to particularly work with seniors, and so but their sort of strapped of ideas on how to get into place where there is red tape and people are kind of curious “oh what it is that you want to do,” but I work in long-term care and I see that there are lots of very lonely and isolated people that need companions that are not there directly for health related pain. They need people that are having conversations and engaging.

N: Being social?

M: Exactly.

N: When it comes to I guess coaching the professional, the nurse who is going to her care facility on a daily basis. Do you coach her and she takes this techniques with her or do you come in say you and another person as an organization to this facility and sit their staff down and begin to talk about some of the techniques and some of the things that you observe in their facility? Is there a facilities analysis that’s done before you begin to talk about these techniques with your clients?

M: Yeah. Usually in the partnerships I’ve created there’s been a process of talking about what the needs are for each specific place and then collaborating from there. Sometimes it’s a very casual setting, there’s tons of really sort of small care community, people that have started group homes that are licensed nurses that they want to provide a specific type of care. And usually what I do is I shadow and I observe and I assist, because I’ve work in cared environment, so I know what’s necessary. And then I train and usually the training is another word I don’t love but I guess it’s a “smart coaching” where I will have the care, the care partners and the people receiving care all in one large group together, usually specifically in a circle. So this is mostly done in small scale, I haven’t tapped into large institutional care environment yet. But…

N: That’s where you’re going.

M: Right. That’s what I’m hoping to do, it is progressive in a sense where usually right now is you do have somebody coming in and doing a training, they come in they have a PowerPoint, nobody that has dementia symptoms is there, and they’re giving information as they then expect somebody to go and use in their practice. I’m trying to blend practice and theory and kind of do literally a coaching and present ‘Okay here’s the person, here are you what could you do? Or watch what I do, and see if that is something that you could do in the future.’ Because they found that people that have skills that I don’t for example that know exactly what medication to give, and when to give it and how to do it, those are the skills that’s what they do great, I want them to doing that. So maybe there is a test a little grain of information I could help them with or give them or empower them in using that will also make it so that they’re more successful at their pre-existing skills. For example a common thing with people who have dementia is to refuse medication, because they aren’t in the same reality, they don’t feel as though they should take medication from a stranger. And the best way to tap into this connection is to break a way a little bit from your role as a nurse, and this is where improv acting comes in and they kind of think, ‘What is this person need from me? I need them to take their medication but what do they need from me?’ Maybe they need listening ear for about 1 minute and then I can say “oh I still got deeds for you,” by then we’re friends and they’re taking their medication.

N: How many each techniques are basically just borrowed from folks, just raising kids just rehashing some techniques that they learned from their own parenting?

M: Yeah, this happens a lot. There are even books written on the concept of Montessori Method in dementia care. Sometimes this create discussion or criticism because you want to make sure to know that somebody who has dementia has a whole life of wisdom, sort of embedded in their spirit and they also have a lot of long term memory. So they themselves know they’re not a child, so in a sense where you’re reprimanding or teaching for the extension, the remainder of their life, those specific things can be plucked out of the situation but as far as more of a compassion based, connection based guidance that for sure is as a parenting skill. And also a lot of the information I get it from a particular occupational therapist and dementia care pioneer named Teepa Snow and she’s got a wonderful videos and information and a lot of these techniques are also inspired by things that have caused her success.

N: Do you have any plans on branching out as far as nationally, or are you going to remain the state of Minnesota in the local area there?

M: I would love to branch out nationally. I think right now it’s a national, a lot of these conversations are there a lot of national conferences, as well as Minnesota is really leading a lot in with the… and Alzheimer’s. So right now I am opened to just about anything, I think there are a lot of places outside of the US that are putting these theories into practice in a far more progressive way which I love to go visit and then sort of bring back here.

N: Great and where can out listeners get more information about Shay’s Way?

M: Right now the website is in the process, but what you can do until then is go on to the Shay’s Way business page on Facebook. And you can also my email address is very simple so I might as well say it because I love to get emails from anyone listening. It’s Yes and thank you are the two most important words when it comes to dementia care. (chuckle)

N: And as we wrap up, one good misconception that you’d like to get rid of concerning dementia care that many people seem to hold dear?

M: Yeah, I would say just the simple the notion that dementia care is difficult. I think that that is the notion that ‘Oh dementia.’ I mean I interact the people and they say ‘Gosh that’s gonna be hard’ and there’s no, of course there are tons of things that are difficult, it’s not something to be taken lightly, although I think that people that who have that have dementia have a lot of offer in the realm of creativity, spirituality, community development, a brighter future, patience, kindness, acceptance. So I would challenge people to not assume that all aspects of dementia are difficult.

N: Great. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, this Health Supplier Segment. And we’ve been in studio talking with Mindy Bolton, a Creativity Coach and Dementia Care Practitioner with Shay’s Way, an organization in Minnesota that’s striving to help those who have been dealing with dementia or Alzheimer’s patients to become mindful, more empathetic and well creative in their thinking when it comes to enhancing the quality of life of those to whom they give care. It’s been great having you here with us today Mindy.

M: Thank you so much. This has been wonderful, I appreciate it.

N: Transcripts and audio of this program are available at and also at and you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.

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