Creative Coaching and Dementia Care [Interview][Transcript]

Mindy_Bolton_Dementia_CareGuest: Mindy Bolton
Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest Bio: Mindy Bolton is a creativity coach and dementia care practitioner that utilizes improvisational theater techniques, visual art, literature, music, and dance to engage with and ignite the passions of those who live with dementia symptoms due to diseases that affect brain function, such as Alzheimer’s and also engage the care partners and/or teams of those who live with dementia symptoms.

Segment overview: Mindy Bolton talks about being a creativity coach and dementia care practitioner and how she works with those with dementia and their care teams.


Health Professional Radio – Dimentia Care

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health professional radio. Thank you so much for joining us today, I’m your host Neal Howard. And in studio with us is Mindy Bolton, she is a Creativity Coach, and Dementia Care Practitioner, utilizing in Improvisational Theater Techniques, Visual Arts, Literature, Music and Dance to engage those with Dementia and Alzheimer’s, and also ignite maybe some hidden passions that could improve their quality of life. How are you doing Mindy?

Mindy Bolton: I’m good, how are you?

N: I’m doing well, welcome to Health Professional Radio.

M: Yeah, thank you. I was thrilled to hear about it, I’m glad to be on.

N: Good. You’re a creativity coach dealing exclusively with Dementia patients, being a Dementia care practitioner. I’ve talked with people that are implementing certain techniques when it comes to those dealing with Dementia and also in helping those who care for Dementia patients. I don’t think that I’ve heard of visual arts, or dance, or even theater techniques, when it comes to dealing with Dementia care patients. Are you a pioneer in this technique?

M: Well I had a lot of help in discovering all these, and I would say that yeah bringing it in a package and focusing on it so intensely – yeah, I would say I am a pioneer, but I have a lot of influencer there. I’m currently living in Minnesota and Minnesota has a great funding for creative arts in general. And so there are a lot of people in this general area who are finding exciting ways to use art and to build community and as we see there’s an increased in our aging population more than ever. There’s more people over 65 than they’ve ever been due to the baby boomers, and these people are addressing things that we have never addressed. What to do with your time when you’re retired and aging? Also if you do face Dementia, if you do, a lot of people are still learning about Dementia, what it is? What to call it? How to talk about it? And I found that creativity in general using these identified art forms help people better understand what it is and how to cope with it, and how to foresee potentially a future with it whether it’s yourself or a loved one.

N: Which came first, Dementia care practitioner Mindy Bolton or creativity coach Mindy Bolton or did it develop hand-in-hand?

M: Yeah, they’ve evolved together. But my background is primarily in lots of caregiving environments. So I would say but the caregiving environments were introduced to my life while I was studying art. So I found that working in group homes and location sets there are people who need care, the care is 24/7, so it’s a great job to have while you’re studying and I happened to be studying art, and so it’s was beautiful serendipitous marrying of the two that made it what it is. And I found that creativity coach is a good term to use because people feel less threatened, sometimes if you see even call yourself an “art teacher” they think “Oh my, I’m expected to learn something. I’m expected to perform in a creative way.” Whereas creativity coach is kind of more, “I understand that perhaps you don’t feel creative, but this is how I can help you become more creative.”

N: So you’re taking away the, I guess the expectation that a teacher would have and then turning it into the in expectation on the patient that a coach would have, kind of like when you’re coaching a high school football team.

M: Right. And a lot of times I even say “I’m not a master of any of these areas – theater, visual arts, dance – I’ve dabbled in all of them, to where I experienced people under my coaching or involved in my coaching that are perhaps or for sure better at that certain areas than myself.” So that also is the dynamic is I’m sort helping people tap into be aren’t internal skilled as opposed to letting them know “Here’s what I have to offer you as an individual.”

N: So you were a caregiver while you were studying art. If I may ask, were you giving care to a loved one or was it just part of the job? Or were you doing a combination of the two?

M: It was somewhat of a combination. During the time that I was studying art and working in grouped homes and as a PCA, my nana also had vacillating healthcare concerns that they’re learning more and more that Dementia can be result from internal organs going haywire, everything is connected. So in her case, she never received a proper diagnosis, although she displayed Dementia symptoms. So she didn’t have Alzheimer’s but because of her heart condition and things of that nature, she started to form concerning behaviors that led her to be in a hospital and assistant living environment. So I was having a long distance relationship with her during her during this time. And so I learned a lot about sort of the initial complications that can happen within care and my nana, particularly was a very creative person, and so when healthcare providers were having a hard time helping her with personal care, and helping her with her healing in the sense of occupational therapy, it occurred to me, “Oh I don’t know if this people are tapping into her most essential nature, her creative nature, which is keeping her from wanting to engage and do the things that they were asking her to do.

N: Now you also, you deal with those that are caring for a people with Dementia. I can understand using art, literature, even dance to for lack of a better term, to get through to the person whose got Dementia or maybe even Alzheimer’s and unlock some of those passions that could help them improve their quality of living. But what about the daughter whose taking care of mom, whose not necessarily interested in art per say? Can you give her hands-on instruction on how to use these techniques or is there a training as an art teacher or dance teacher, anything like that, that’s involved?

M: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’ve had a lot of success with people who don’t have a lot of confidence with art per say. In a sense where, I hope some realize that art, there’s a quote I used often by Elbert Hubbard, “Art is not a thing; it is a way.” And so I helped people discover that they do understand creativities through asking them usually a series of questions, that’s the easiest thing, or essentially getting to know them. When I talk to people, I’ll ask them if they have a certain recipe that they or they do it exactly right every time, but it’s not followed, it’s not written down or if they look at a certain image and feel something from that image. A lot of times looking at the same visual image and perhaps it can be an art image or it could be a photograph of a landscape – through looking at the same thing, people can relief and learn things that aren’t related to the image but they’re related to the conversation the image provokes. So eventually if I have somebody who’s deliberately interested in art it makes my job, I guess, they won’t call it easier, but it’s okay, what kind of art and we go from there. If it somebody who said “Oh I’m not in the art, I don’t know how to dance, I don’t know how to paint”, then it would be more so tapping into what it is they know and finding a way to relate it to the art form and to make to them feel comfortable using it.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio with Mindy Bolton, Creativity Coach and Dementia Care Practitioner, discussing how creative thinking, using visual arts, literature, music, dance and even improvisational theater techniques to enhance the quality of life of those who’s suffering with Dementia and Alzheimer’s. And we’ve also been talking about, not only unlocking some of the hidden potential in the minds of those suffering with Dementia in order to improve their quality of life, but also coaching those who are giving care to Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients in how to successfully unlock some of their passions or maybe learn a new skill in order to improve the quality of life for their patients. It’s been great having you here with us today Mindy.

N: Thank you so much. I’ve enjoyed it as well.

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

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