The Dementia Care Community [Interview][Transcript]

Mindy_Bolton_ dementia_friendly_environmentGuest: 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 discusses ways to build stronger communities around those living with dementia.


Health Professional Radio – dementia friendly environment

Neal Howard: Hello and welcome to Health professional radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, thank you so much for joining us today. In studio today is Mindy Bolton, she is a Creativity Coach, and Dementia Care Practitioner utilizing improvisational theater techniques, dance, music, literature and even visual arts in order to engage those who are living with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease. And also to coach those who are giving care and some techniques that maybe kind of out of the box thinking. Good afternoon Mindy.

Mindy Bolton: Thank you. Yes, good afternoon to you.

N: You’re a creativity coach. Talk about how you became a creativity coach especially one who is dealing with dementia patients.

M: Yeah. Well as I was studying community arts at Concordia St. Paul in Minnesota, I also was working in a variety of care environments. And I started to pick up on a fact that what I was learning could partner greatly with care environments and I’ve been working towards ever since.

N: I’m thinking is one or the other more of a passion for you? As far as art, I’ve done a couple or acrylics in my time that’s about it.

M: Yeah.

N: But we you were studying art, do you consider yourself an artist whose a creativity coach or a creativity coach dementia care practitioner who happens to be an artist?

M: Yeah, this is a good question. And I would say that it changes, but my main distinctive passion is helping others. And I find that when I was in art school I had a lot colleagues and friends that they were really ignited by the idea of becoming an artist, their name would represent the art they made. Whereas I always thought I just think everybody is nervous and I wanted to kind of tell everybody that. And so like you said oh I’ve done some acrylic painting, but I would say what you do is an art in its own way, you know what I mean with radio and connecting to others and looking at your information and displaying in a certain way. So I guess I’m sort of a progressive thinker when it comes to what is art and what isn’t art, they’ve all blend together. But as I said that main passion is change making more so than creating visual art. I create visual art as a hobby.

N: Now you’ve experienced a variety of caregiving environments, do you think that being an artist contributes to being more mindful and empathetic or is that something that is addressed in your techniques if a person is lacking in a couple of those areas, say mindfulness and empathy?

M: Yeah, I think that you could relate it to, I mean I was on the track educationally to study art therapy but what I realized about art therapy – we need it. We need it and there are people that are good at it and but I think there’s a whole other sector of using art as a vehicle that isn’t art therapy, it’s more so connection based. So I found that in the care environment I was in, it was a lot of about critical thinking and I realized that people were making decisions based off of things that were of out touch with the person we’re actually was living day to day, but we’re more numbers based than judgement based than logical. And I thought to make those well I’ve been around people that we’re caring for and I don’t know if this is their language. So it basically been a way for me to start conversations and to bridge the gap between artist and more so the decision maker I guess you could say.

N: It sounds like what your goal is or at least a part of your goal is to build a strong support group around those that are living with dementia and around those that are giving them care. Have you talked to any other artist who are not caregivers or dementia caregiver specifically in order to maybe get them on board in some of their ideas as professional artist to help build this community? And my second question is what type of reception have you received from doctors or professionals in the healthcare industry when talking about these techniques?

M: Right, it’s a great question. What I do is probably 5% of my time it depends as far as the work I do in the research and the connecting is to identify artists who are specifically hoping to work with senior’s class. So there’s an organization locally here in Minnesota called the “art stage” and there are a lot of different outlets and venues for people who do creative things to partner with care environments here in Minnesota. So I do a lot of networking to those communities, what I find is there is still other researches coming around in explaining the clear techniques. There are lot of people writing books and doing case studies and things like that, and there certainly people within the geriatric healthcare environment that are really recognizing the importance. I think sometimes it boils onto funding, a lot of times it boils down to essentially people I think that are definitely over 75 become particularly isolated. And so I think that beyond there’s a lot of people going about their daily life, and whether they’re creative thinkers, or business minded or anything else, they tend not to always think about what is not in their direct environment. And so what I found is that half my task right now is getting people to think about it and care about it and wonder how it relates to them. And so that is what kind of the series of questions you just asked were wonderful in identifying exactly kind of what it is that I do and how my role is interchangeable. And I think that Dr. Gene Cohen the leading source when it came to creative aging. He’s got a lot of great research and there are people really picking up on it, it’s just a matter of getting it the proper funding in time. So right now it’s a big…spot for volunteers to run art projects and people are starting to think, “Well we have arts and crafts, how is what you’re doing is different?” And so that’s why it’s good for me to be on shows like this so that I can talk more in-depth about it, because it’s a very dynamic thing, a lot of grey area. (Giggle)

N: Now in wrapping up Mindy, you’re talking about visual arts, dance, improvisational theater, literature, music, things that not only an aging adult maybe interested in especially when the opportunity to unlock maybe some hidden talent or passion is involved. But these are from some things that children would be interested in as well. In many situations there are children involved while care is being given to say nana or grandpa or uncle Joe.

M: Right.

N: Do your techniques involved creatively thinking on how to coach children in understanding what’s happening to their family member? And maybe even becoming involved in some of the quality of life issues that can be improved with these techniques.

M: Yes. I think intergenerational programming is huge, I think currently we have a lot of grandparents outside of the home and more so in assistive living because people aren’t comfortable, a lot of people are busy at work and aren’t comfortable being able to look after their loved one and so by being in the assistive living they sometimes have less access to children. And so there are tons of researcher that are now realizing let’s have a daycare close, let’s really make it a point to combine these groups. And I think that sometimes the challenges are having the time and the funding to make something that is really effective because you can’t simply take a group of children and a group of people with dementia and sort of just say okay mingle, do you know what I mean? It has to be intentional and structured in a way. But yes, art is perfect way to blend the two, and there’s also a big outlet right now for recreations of books that are similar to children’s book, but they are made for older adults and they highlight information for older adults that still supplies dignity and respect and isn’t belittling their wisdom but that is simple to follow that children and adults can read together, so things like that are very exciting.

N: And direct our listeners to a website where they can get more information about you and about creative coaching as it applies to dementia care?

M: Yeah, I am on Facebook

N: Alright, well Mindy thank you so much for joining us today on Health Professional Radio. It’s been a pleasure.

M: Thank you so much.

N: You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio, I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio talking with Mindy Bolton, Creativity Coach and Dementia Care Practitioner utilizing Improvisational Theater Techniques, Visual Arts, even Dance and Music to engage those suffering with Alzheimer’s and dementia, in order to improve their quality of life. 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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