This is a heart breaking topic since so many of us know someone in declining
mental and/or physical capacity. Sometimes people will self select and opt out
of dancing if they have insight into their declining abilities, other times
they don't, putting a strain on the community. Approx 15 years ago
Philadelphia had a dancer with declining physical abilities which divided the
community for several years. He finally moved away to be with family.
The gentleman that you are describing (I observed them when I was there in
April), seems to want to maintain the "normal" in his life, rightfully so. She
did not seem engaged in the dancing (ie, didn't respond to the calls), but
seemed to enjoy some of the one-on-one attention that everyone paid her as she
was "escorted" through the figures, but at times looked frustrated.
Dale had a great suggestion to separate the couple. Great idea for the
husband...he could still manage (although slower) to get through the dance.
However, I personally don't think that having another partner would be helpful
for her as she seemed to require significant hand-holding not just from her
partner but also from all her neighbors.
You might consider getting volunteers to "dance" with her on the sidelines
one-on-one if she's interested in dancing (and if she is able to engage without
her husband with her), simple figures like allemande, two hand turn, do-si-do,
or a simple "swing" couple dance. You would have to have several volunteers
willing sit out a dance to accommodate her if this option works. Or she might
be willing to sit at the front desk with whomever is sitting there, if she's
social and interested in talking with people as they enter. This would keep
her in a safe space while the husband dances.
However, I really want to emphasize Dan's suggestion of talking with the
husband. He needs to be engaged in the discussion and solution. The dances
were challenging for her in April and I suspect that its worse now. Perhaps
you could suggest that the caller do a simple dance, like Salmonella Evening
for all beginners (but especially for them if he insists on dancing with her),
but unless there are a significant number of beginners at the dance, then
catering to this couple for more than one dance in the evening seems unfair to
the other dancers.
I don't think their participation in a slower beginner dance or family dance
would be appropriate either...she didn't appear to have the mental capacity to
learn the dance and didn't respond to the calls over the mic. So, unless
there's a dance that caters to seniors with declining mental capacity, I think
she would be a challenge to have in any line.
In addition, my main concern is for her safety. Usually with declining mental
capacity comes a slowing of physical response, balance and reaction time.
Changing directions at 120 beats/minute probably challenges her and puts her at
risk for a fall which might include someone near her as well. I don't know if
a fall like this would open your organization to liability. You might want to
look into that.
I applaud you and your other organizers for tackling this issue. I suspect
that sooner or later all dance communities will have to manage something like
From: Katy Heine via Organizers <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: Organizers <Organizers@lists.sharedweight.net>
Sent: Tue, Oct 24, 2017 10:03 am
Subject: [Organizers] what to do about a dancer with dementia
For the last three years, one of our older dancers has been declining with
dementia--and her husband, not a good dancer himself, continues to bring her to
our dances. Invariably, they create chaos on the dance floor.
Most people on the board of my dance organization feel it's important to
continue to include these dancers until such time that the husband decides it's
time for them to stop coming. On the other hand, I'm concerned with the effect
that they're having on other dancers. I've heard at least one dancer say that
she considered not coming to a dance when she saw that this couple was
there--and certainly this couple's presence is diminishing the dance experience
of many of the dancers who've come to our events for the high level of dancing
that we were able to deliver in the past.
Has anyone else wrestled with this sort of problem? If yes, what did you do (or
not do) about it?
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