Downtown Seattle is a relatively compact city so I’m taking every opportunity to walk as much as I can. Not quite got the hang of the grid road system so lots of unintended detours along the way but getting to see parts of the city away from the main hustle and bustle.
A 1/2 hour stroll from Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle took me to my first meeting of the day with colleagues from the University of Washington- Medicine & Brain Wellness Centre including the Medical Director, Geriatrician Angela, Nurse Practitioner Elisabeth, Scientific writer Genevieve and Social Worker Andrew not forgetting Marigrace. We discussed the many differences between the British and American Health Care systems and surprisingly the many similarities and frustrations. Colleagues were interested to hear about the work taking place with regards to the national and local work in Scotland around the early identification and management of delirium- particularly the use of the 4AT tool which was unfamiliar to them.
Following this meeting I was able to spend a little extra time with Genevieve Wanucha who has recently started as the science writer for the wellness centre. In addition to her role at the University of Washington, Genevieve is currently working on a book about ‘Fronto-Temporal Dementia’ which is framed by both her research and personal experiences as her mother lived (and sadly died) with this condition. Genevieve spoke movingly about her mother and the challenges faced on a daily basis largely due to a lack of understanding about ‘Fronto-Temporal Dementia’ much of which is by healthcare professionals. I thank you Genevieve for sharing your mom’s story and the hope that, ‘maybe someday, we’ll all find ourselves able to help a person continue to belong’.
My next meeting was with MaryJane Knecht who works at the Frye Art Museum as the Manager of Adult Programmes. I was here to experience one of the ‘Creating Ageing Programmes’, ‘here:now’. Here:now is an ‘arts engagement programme for people living with dementia and their care partners to enjoy works of art and art making in a supportive setting’. It was established approximately 5 years ago with mentoring from the ‘Museum of Modern Art’ (MOMO) in New York who developed the original programme. Here:now consists of a weekly 2 hour session over a 6 week period. The group I was invited to join was meeting for the first session of the 6 week cycle.
The afternoon started with exploring the painting, ‘Seascape (with figures)’ 1899 by the Russian artist Nikolai Nikanorovich. The group was invited to study the painting and describe what they saw which resulted in a wonderful and rich discussion made all the more poignant by the contribution of a woman (and her daughter) who had been married to a fisherman and tragically lost both her husband and son to the sea. The wisdom spoke throughout the afternoon was humbling and once again it felt an honour to be part of the group.
The second part to the afternoon was then facilitated by Shanti (Sanskrit for peace) Sabersky and Adina Menashe from ‘Elderwise’ whose philosophy is based around spirit-centred care, seeing every day as a new opportunity for growth. Their mission is to ‘recognise and nurture the value and wholeness of older adults, regardless of their cognitive or physical ability, and to meet their need to experience life deeply in the present’. We were invited to paint our own seascapes using watercolours which were then shared with group members at the end and I was forced (but with much kindness and compassion) to face my own fear of painting in public and in a medium I was unfamiliar with. The space though felt safe for all and the final paintings were all fantastic and even mine didn’t look too bad in the end.
I had the opportunity to take a brief self-guided walk around some of the gardens at the University of Seattle and the ‘Habitat Sculptures’ created by Fine Arts students to provide a friendly environment for wildlife. These included a raccoon picnic safe ground, bees hotel, stairway to treetop and my favourite, the hummingbird swing. A peaceful haven in the middle of the busy city.
What was a very full but fulfilling day was finished off with MaryJane and Marigrace’s company once again and that of fellow ambassadors of Seattle Momentia over dinner. It was great to spend the evening with like- minded people and I sincerely hope we can continue to stay connected and learn and grow with each other. Thanks once again.