Their capacity to delight: knowing persons with dementia through haiku

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Kocher, Philomene
Arts education , Dementia care , Haiku
This research explores the use of haiku poetry to connect with persons with dementia. The happenings during two one-hour sessions provide the main focus for this study. These sessions were part of an ongoing spiritual care program on the secure dementia unit of a long-term care facility. The sessions were co-facilitated by the chaplain who leads the ongoing program, and by myself as both guest poet and researcher. Haiku were used as prompts to reminiscence. Words and phrases from the stories that were spoken during the session became the building blocks for creating collaborative haiku within the group setting. “Inferences all over” was spoken by a person with severe dementia and became a part of one of the collaborative haiku. This comment is remarkable for its association to poetry where the words on the page often only hint indirectly at a deeper meaning, and for its association to spirituality where the stories we tell often only hint at our deeper truth. The ambiguity around what is evident and what is implied paradoxically invites connection. The first chapter of this thesis, Beginning, describes the format of a haiku session where building connection is the primary intention. It also explores issues around the creative arts. “Inferences all over” also speaks to the hermeneutic phenomenological approach of this thesis, where the stories speak for themselves. These stories appear in the second chapter entitled During, along with insights gleaned from interviews. “Inferences all over” well describes the third chapter, After, where I reflect on my experiences as a participant in this research, and where I detail some of the ripples of this study into the dementia care, haiku, and educational communities. “Their capacity to delight” in the thesis title was spoken by the chaplain who developed the spiritual care program. Her belief in the possibility of connection with persons with dementia forms the bedrock of the program—where hospitality invites connection and validation affirms their responses. This capacity has implications for all teaching—formal as well as informal—as it invites learning as an experience to enjoy rather than endure.
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