We recently had the opportunity to speak with Molly Middleton Meyer, founder of Mind’s Eye Poetry — a poetry workshop and organization opening new worlds to people with dementia and their caregivers.
Learn more about the story behind Meyer’s organization, her unique workshops, and how you can get involved with her mission to care for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A Personal Tragedy Leads to an Inspired Idea
Molly Middleton Meyer is no stranger to the world of dementia. Losing both parents to Alzheimer’s one year apart exposed Molly to different dementia care options and gave her personal insight into what it is like to care for and love someone going through the disease.
As she watched and cared for her parents, she found a heavy emphasis on drug treatments and a lack of real creative and physical stimulation for people living with the disease. A poet and writer herself, Meyer decided to turn her passion for poetry into an empowering tool to help people living with dementia and their caregivers.
She founded Mind’s Eye Poetry in 2013 with the mission “to use poetry as a means of connection, as a way to stimulate memory and imagination, as a way to actively engage and empower those living with dementia, as a way to celebrate lives well lived.”
Engaging and Empowering People with Dementia through Poetry
To achieve her mission, Meyer facilitates poetry workshops with people who have dementia. Working mostly in memory care communities and sometimes in homes, she is able to work with people who have all stages of dementia, including those who are non-verbal.
Each workshop has a theme (i.e. color, season), that Meyer asks the group open ended questions about. They then work together to create poetry. At the end of the workshop, each person has 3-5 poems they worked to create, giving all a sense of accomplishment and achievement.
Many of her open ended questions trigger memories and calls upon the imagination of the group which can lead to sharing stories of the past, and create social engagement and a joyful environment. Meyer believes that people with dementia create a higher quality of poetry than the general population because the disease often enables people to think in a non-linear way which can create beautiful art.
While most of her work is done in the Dallas area where she lives, Meyer does do some workshops via Skype and can help struggling caregivers interact and engage with their loved one who has dementia. While not a counselor or doctor, her background in poetry and writing helps her ask creative and engaging questions. These questions can lead to a story from a loved one, the unlocking of a forgotten memory, or even a smile from someone who has lost verbal communication skills.
In addition to helping others, Mind’s Eye Poetry has seen how poetry helps caregivers and survivors. When a loved one emerges from a workshop with a poem about their own past or something they remembered, caregivers are given an opportunity to see their loved one in a new light.
Make an Impact on Dementia
Meyer admits that one challenge to her organization is the unique skill set to create poetry in the moment, which makes the program successful. It is unfortunately a hard skill to train another person to do, which limits her scope and reach.
While not every person can create poetry on the spot, there is something that everyone can do to add joy to the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s. Meyer tries to find the good that comes from this terrible disease and believes that others can do the same through their unique skill sets whether it be gardening, painting, story telling, song writing, or any other engaging activity that can enrich the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
Meyer believes that art and the creative process is therapeutic to everyone, even those whose communication is extremely limited. She noted that there are millions of people in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s and that we must ask ourselves what we are doing with them and for them.
A dementia diagnosis does not have to mean isolation or solitary confinement. It is important to remember that we can work to bring joy and light to loved ones with dementia through the creative process.
What is one skill set that you have that could enrich the life of someone living with dementia? Share your story with us in the comments below.