“Nature, like prayer, allows us to realign ourselves with the world and find inner peace”.
Testimony by Valentina Pirola, Occupational Therapist at the Santa Teresa care home, in Livraga (LO) Italy.
The beauty of Cristina
I meet Cristina Fino before her talk at the Meeting of Care Professions. I had read about her; I like the fact that from her career related to the visual world she thought of reworking it in favour of the most fragile.
I had contacted her by phone, she had explained her project to me and I was fascinated. She had also sent me the evaluation forms, in short, everything well-documented, I like it.
After following her presentation at the Meeting, I arrived at the care home full of energy: I had listened to the fields of possibility of using nature videos and could not wait to write down a few lines of the project.
From there, it all starts. I talk about it with the Mother Superior, I find a door, indeed an open door: the idea of bringing novelty to the Residents, especially the most fragile who struggle to follow the usual and consolidated activities, convinces her. Nature, like prayer, allows us to realign ourselves with the world and find inner peace.
Through the Alamar Life videos, the beauty of nature becomes part of life in the care home.
Allowing Residents, of any cognitive level, to travel with their imagination, return to their fields, listen to the sound of the rivers, see the flowers of spring, arouses in them and in me, beauty, rest and distracts them from the environment they live in every day.
Silence, listening in silence, without necessarily having to fill spaces, can also be done and built slowly.
So, I start to get into the projects, applying the Experience Nature films first individually, then in small groups.
Alamar videos in painting workshops
In the early days, the viewing of nature films is especially combined with painting activities.
“Mariuccia is looking for you, she still has the itch”. We have been like this for a few weeks now. Mrs. Mariuccia, who has been very dear to me over the years, suffers a little from negative thoughts, sleeps little and badly, needs to talk. I come into the room, she is asleep at my ‘good morning’ and it is understandable, if she spends the night awake!
I begin to tell her about the new activity I have thought of for her and that alone gratifies a person, to say: ‘I thought of something for you, I thought of you‘.
She puts on her walker, puts on some perfume, retrieves two sweets and follows me to the Occupational Room, where I had arranged for the Flowers theme to be shown. We have a coffee and she starts telling me about how she used to take care of the flowers at home, we just talk about beautiful things.
With Mariuccia I will be starting a months-long project, first individually and then together with a small group. I will draw up an updated document once a week in which I will note down the particularities of the session. By now we enjoy chasing the nurses to measure saturation and blood pressure before and after the activity. Nothing to say, every time, at the end of the activity, the lady is more relaxed. We don’t work miracles, but we try.
In the group then she becomes the leader, this also gratifies her, she asks what flowers to display, she concentrates so much on colour that sometimes she colours even without her glasses!
Also, in the group comes Mrs. Emilia, how could I not include her and ask her to participate! She is a painter, a lover of beauty, of flowery shirts, of the flowers her daughter always brings to her room. We are on the road to confusion unfortunately, but she really enjoys the company and getting involved.
Emilia sees the films with an impressive hunger for beauty, she is thunderstruck, there is nothing left around her for the forty-minute session. When someone enters the hall, they don’t notice, Mariuccia notices instead and says: “Didn’t you see the sign? I made a ‘DVD viewing in progress, do not disturb’ sign.
Then Virginia arrives and it’s a big challenge with her. Because Virginia, with her wheelchair, does the miles in the care home. I arrive in the morning and she is already on the move, she never stops. She speaks little, but with me she does, I use non-verbal communication a lot, she has been a reserved lady says her son, very composed and nice.
The ladies always return to where they have been well and even if they do not know which floor they ‘live’ on or where their room is, they are drawn like a magnet to our little room. This can only please us. “Virginia, do you feel like standing here this morning next to me and looking at some nice things?” “But yes,” she replies in dialect.
After the first few sessions, Virginia sits in a ‘normal’ chair with a nice soft cushion, always next to me, watches the ladies engaged in colouring and comments that they are very good, watches the films, concentrates, laughs, some words come out that we no longer hear.
I apply Conversational Techniques and special dialogues come out between me and her, she relaxes. In one session, she relaxes so much that she falls asleep.
As in any self-respecting course, I ask Mrs. Emilia’s daughter for help with a real art session. This is also life in the care home. The family member accepts willingly, the mother is beaming when her painter daughter shows up for the session. By now everything is flowing, there is energy, fun, there is no longer any fear of picking up a paintbrush and using colours, on the contrary!
Beautiful paintings come out of this, which will later be framed and displayed in the ward.
Mariuccia did not, she wanted her painting in her room: ‘please put it in my house’. “Of course Mariuccia”, and a heartfelt embrace between her and me broke out.
Alamar videos in creative and therapeutic storytelling
Another little group starts, the storytelling group.
This is incredible, I’m having so much fun. It takes us a while to settle in the Occupational Room, but that’s how it is, you have to respect the times, you have to respect the elderly.
We arrive at the hall in a huddle, I start with a round of greetings, I ask how they are and hear a bit how we are lined up, if anyone in the group needs proximity, support.
Teresa hums, always smiling, never still. I ask her what she wants to see, make her choose, she asks me about the sea. We start watching a film of the sea, a calm sea, a beautiful beach, and slowly I ask her to invent a story. Almost all the ladies participate! But even those who listen, listen attentively, that’s fine.
And then out come rhymes and thoughts in rhyme, nice, with meaning, poetic.
I let the words flow, because the participants feel like expressing themselves, without judgement. I take out my notepad and start to quickly transcribe the words, I cannot forget them, I will make a nice collection, perhaps to display at the summer festival. The emotions come out, stirred by the images.
The following year, to my great satisfaction, I and my team follow another speech by Cristina at the Meeting of Care Professions. I continue, in my daily practice, to use them as a very valuable tool for my grandparents, offering workshops, but also as a real non-pharmacological therapy, to be administered to the individual as needed. So that nature becomes a true medicine for the soul.
Valentina Pirola, Occupational Therapist at the Santa Teresa care home, in Livraga (LO) Italy.