Oh, what a year it has been! 2009 began with an opportunity to develop and implement weekly group guided Imagery programs for elders residing within longterm & transitional care facilities. Activity departments were re-named Integrative Personal Services departments to offer integrative services for residents.
I was so motivated and excited to serve the community with such a valuable and sorely needed program! The biggest challenge, though, was how to encourage elders to participate and engage in the process? How many elders would even know what Imagery was? I am fortunate to have support from caring staff members. They have helped by learning about the use of Imagery and identifying residents who would be good candidates to experience the process. They encourage participation and bring residents into beautiful living room areas where the sessions are held. Some residents will come once and decide that it’s not for them. Others take an interest and come weekly – with some participating for 11 months now.
I’ve noticed that residents who attend regularly have increased their sensory abilities and are sharing their experiences with their loved ones. So many are concerned about their family and want to help them cope. Some are using Imagery techniques to sleep at night, others to manage discomfort within their bodies.
I use visual tools, such as posters, with natural settings. Weekly topics include the Healing properties of nature such as light, color, water and sound. The use of tools and nature topics really helps participants shift their focus and remember joyful, meaningful experiences in their lives. Some become very absorbed in this Healing, sensory process and share personal experiences that they then use during the Imagery process. Some residents are visually impaired; however, their inner abilities to activate their Imagination can be very strong. CDs are available to residents for personal use, although regular use is a challenge. Sometimes it’s difficult to know how engaged a person is with the Imagery process. I have been surprised by comments that I didn’t expect. A woman who had attended every week, seemingly disconnected, showed up one day explaining to me that she would be undergoing surgery the following week and had told her doctor about attending the sessions. She asked me if I had any advice that would help her Heal from her surgery. I gave her one of my pre/post surgery CDs. The staff helped set it up for her, the surgery was successful, her wound began to Heal and she was back with the group within 2 weeks.
Another participant had difficulty breathing and was on oxygen. I showed her a technique, called hand breathing, which she indicated helped her. I didn’t see her again for about 2 months.
One day she was there despite being very ill. A caring staff member had encouraged her to come, hoping that it would help her. She said that she had been too ill to do her hand breathing. I asked her, instead, to stay focused on the picture that I brought that day a lighthouse on a beautiful coast. She listened as I talked and guided the group through the Imagery process, staring intently at the picture. At the session’s end, I noticed that she was still focused on the picture. As participants were leaving, she told me how much better she felt after the Imagery. She asked how that could happen in such a short time. She needed further medical treatment later, yet on that day, she received some relief and Healing. Since that time, she has attended the group regularly.
I recall many stories such as this as I reflect upon the effectiveness of the program and how it brings comfort and Healing to elders experiencing discomfort, anxiety and sadness. Several participants have passed on and I can only hope that they received some sense of peace and Healing, even if it was just for one day.