Within the ClowNexus project RED NOSES is partnering with other healthcare clown organisations to dive deep into working more impactful with elderly with dementia and children with autism. Among the partners is Pallapupas from Spain, where we interviewed two experienced clowns Núria Valerio and Ricardo García who are working in elderly homes in Barcelona.
What have you learned about connecting with elderly with dementia in Clownexus or before?
Núria Valerio: I have learned to go to back to the basics of communication, that means not take things for granted, to observe and listen very closely to elderly with dementia. My focus lies on the person and not so much on the dementia, I am patient and I have empathy. I experienced when there is connection, when there is real communication with another human being is going on, then real joy can emerge
Ricardo García: I have also learned that it is necessary to find out certain things beforehand: what is the degree of neurological deterioration, the general state of health, the biography of the person and his or her personality, how he or she relates to the environment, with others and what psychological needs the elderly have. This is where we involve staff and the team in the elderly home. Joint work helps to reach the depth of memory.
What are your creative/artistic tips about how clowns connect with elderly with dementia? So, relatives, care takers or other clowns get an idea how this could work for them.
Núria Valerio: Eye and physical contact is very important. The rhythm of the intervention often must be adapted, and the focus lies on the needs of the elderly. I believe the greatest keys are patience, attention, and giving them the space and time each of them needs.
Ricardo García: Clowns can be spontaneous and they do not judge what elderly people say or do. They also don’t judge the person they have in front following social parameters. From this lack of judgment, they get on the same level as the person they have in front and labels like dementia or elderly disappear, so real communication can take place.
Núria Valerio: Even if you think that this person does not understand, they sense your love or your smile. So, my advice is: take your time to listen, take your time finding out what they like or do not like. Take a moment to touch and give love. They sense that.