Finding Ithika Blog

Written by Steve on Friday, 22 August 2014 07:09   

How do I get Home?


Kyla's Diary Entry
Emerging Artist

Every afternoon I sit on the bus and head home thinking about what part of the day I could share with you. To sit and simply reflect on the work we have been doing over the last few weeks is not hard, the hard part is pinpointing where would be a good place to begin, after several attempts I still find myself floundering about for words. So I begin with the opening quotation from the movie Patch Adams as directed by Tom Shadyac; “All of life is a coming home. Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners, beekeepers, sword swallowers, all of us.  All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home. The heaviness of your legs in the drifts, your shouts disappearing into the wind. How small you can feel, and how far away home can be.” I was forced to listen to this line a number of times to try gain a deeper understanding of them. 

The thought of home is a funny one; home is the beginning and the end to every journey. I am drawn to this quote because the concept of home has become more apparent over the last few weeks as I have met such a variety people who are often in varying stages of dementia; engineers, farmers, shopkeepers, artists... all sharing their stories with me, sharing their memories of home. Not only do they fondly share these past recollections, but there have been many occasions where I have been posed with this single question “Now dear, how do I get home?” In fact this is the question I am asked more often than any other. There is no remembrance or recall of the room we may be in, they may have been a resident at the centre for quite some time, yet today they are experiencing everything for the first time once again. 

A person’s sense of home is instinctive; I am not suggesting that a person cannot be at “home” in other places, but there is certainly a difference between being at home and feeling at home. A few days ago I noticed that outside the Opal Unit of the Edenvale Aged Care Centre there is a model bus stop. Initially I thought that it was a horrible idea to further encourage and instil this false hope of getting home. However I guess I have a little change of heart, I realise that it is unlikely for some of these elders to ever have a handle on our "reality" again, and that’s fine. It makes no sense to spend time trying to have them see the world as we do. Yet it is possible for us to put their anxiety to rest by travelling into their world – their "reality"? Why not? Home is defined as both a place of origin and a goal or destination. 

After thinking more about the bus stop, I began to realise that home is the primary objective and the bus stop is merely the medium allowing us to enter their world - even if for a fraction of a second. It is the meeting point or the bridge between our world and theirs. Patch Adams end those first few lines by saying; 
“The storm was all in my mind. I found myself in a dark wood, for I had lost the right path. Eventually I would find the right path, but in the most unlikely place.” I suppose what I am trying to say is it's all a matter of one's perspective and resultant perception of reality. The point is this, their reality is as real as mine is to me.



Wanda's Diary Entry



Today was a wonderful lesson for me in the benefits of  being brave, 'going with the flow' and improvising!! 

All too often as a visual arts tutor I tend to ' over plan ' and forget to leave space for those wonderful unexpected moments of creativity . Steve and I jointly facilitated a session with Endeavour and with Steve's brave director spirit we all leapt into a fantastic hour of unplanned creativity. With Captain Ricky at the helm and 1st mate Eddie at wheel we  formed a ship using our bodies and set sail on the high seas, Dan with the help of Graham raised the sail and away we went!!


                                                                                            Sailboat reduced 1



Having spent the last few weeks working on making our little cane boats it was wonderful to see this little bit of inspiration ignite the imagination and evolve into a beautiful  free form movement activity.  I'm not sure what the kitchen staff thought but for all of us we were there, rolling on the high sea in search of adventure!! With the braveness of true adventurers we then embarked on a journey to create a large scale 'boat' inspired picture on the floor, using a variety of dyed fabrics , our cane boats, wool and other random items we found in the store room . WOW  i was blown away,  the guys created and amazing large scale installation,  Jackson Pollock would have been impressed!!


                                                                    workshop reduced


The spirit of this wonderful session rolled into the afternoon and we gathered a larger than normal group of participants from the memory unit and set off for our afternoon 'hand mapping' session.  My usually ' overly organised' art tutor side would have normally opted for a slightly smaller group, being worried that i would'nt have time to get round to help everyone.  Again the benefits of going ' with the flow' and being willing to improvise  shone brightly.  The residents were more than happy to wait and just have a chat.  I realised they are probably far more patient they i am!! We all had time to  laugh, share some more stories and create our art work. One really beautiful moment was when Maureen saw Bub had dropped her needle and realising I was busy helping Merle decided to work with her, it was a lovely moment between them both and something that I hadn't noticed happening before.  


Written by Steve on Thursday, 21 August 2014 07:37   

Aug 21


Yesterday I went to the memory unit to pick up the residents and walk them over to the workshop.

The unit has a combination key to get out and I forgot the combination code. This has happened to me on a

number of occasions. The residents enjoy these moments. I'm one of them rather than the expert or gatekeeper.

I kind of like it too. I went looking for help and the maintainance person took out a pen and wrote the 

combination on the palm of my hand and said " This is so you won't forget." At least not until I wash my hands,

I thought. Bloody hell! Another password to remember. I must have at least 30 of them by now. And the number of times

I have had to press that button which says "forgot your passord?"


                                                             Door lock

This is the age of passwords. Never has our memory been put to the test so much than in the 21st century. Multi coloured postickers on fridges, calendar reminders on the mobile

pins and passwords for everything, journal entries and even this computer I'm typing on right, now is one big memory unit. Every bookstore I visit at airport terminals seems to be full of books guaranteeing ways of improving your memory.

The four residents waited patiently behind me as I slowly pressed the tiny combination keys to open it. It took me a few goes. I have a condition called 4th nerve palsy which causes vertical double vision.  They seemed to enjoy seeing me on my knees Magoo-like, adjusting my prism glasses and trying to break the code. We finally got out and made our way to the workshop.


Memory is complex: But the more I understand it, the less fearful I become when I can't find my keys or know that face but can't put a name to it.  Breaking down the fear associated with memory loss is one of the reasons we're doing what we do here at Homefield. Both for the residents, staff, ourselves and the community. The fear of memory loss is the 21 century bogey man.


In his book 'How the Mind Forgets and Remember: The Seven Deadly Sins ' Daniel Schacter focuses on the seven different ways we forget things. 

Transcience refers to a loss of memory over a period of time.  Today at 11.30am I raced back to the studio to pick up a voice recorder to interview an 87 year old resident Cyril Moss.

I would be hard pressed to remember what exactly I was doing at 11.30am last Wednesday.  I'm OK with that. It becomes a bit more problematic when you're standing in a witness box giving evidence in a court of law.

And here's the part I love. In our interview Cyril Moss gave me a text book description of how he learnt how to install a windmill. Every bolt and every bit of machinery used to hold that windmill in place was described by Cyril in minute detail.  He told me it was October or November 1944 when he went out to the Peak Downs "to chase windmills."  Homefield suddenly became La Mancha and Cyril was our own Don Quixote. 



   Cyril Moss 


Absent-Mindedness is when you misplace the keys or mobile or your glasses.  It's because you become preoccupied with something else and you don't pay attention to what you need to remember.

This morning at Homefield, Wanda asked me to ring her mobile because she couldn't find it. In the afternoon as she left to go home she suddenly did a u-turn and came back asking me if I'd seen

her sunglasses.  It's any wonder she forgot her sunglasses. Today her focus, her so called pre-occupation was on working with 8 people with dementia in a workshop to develop their skills in drawing the outline lines of their hands on maps- maps of places they had lived in- and then charting the aged lines of their palms and drawing those onto the map- and finally taking a needle and thread and sewing along the lines of that map. Wanda was anything but absent-minded. The workshop was dynamic, imaginative, thoughtful, caring and above all empowering. Wanda's gentle reassuring hand on the shoulder of one participant to boost her confidence was followed by

helping to unpick a stitch on one another's artwork as she spoke to them about their days living in Southhampton during the blitz.  After the workshop Wanda walked with the residents back to the memory unit, made  2 phone calls to order extra cane for our Gladstone residency and then picked up a police-check form.  Wanda's focus wasn't exactly on the sunglasses.




Blocking is what I experienced the other day walking down the corridoor towards the memory unit when a resident in a wheelchair said 'G'day Steve' and I looked at him and I could not for the life of me remember his name. 

It's when you search for information that you are desperately trying to retrieve. Hours later his name suddenly jumped into my head when I was shopping. "Eddy!"  As I wait at the check out I take out my mobile and in the Notes application write in the name "Eddy" bloke in the wheelchair at Homefield....just in case..... and it will, happen again.

The Power of Music
Written by Steve on Thursday, 14 August 2014 22:59   

Thurs 14 Aug


Today more than any other day has convinced me that what we are doing is making a difference.

At 9.30am Martin was wheeled across from the dementia unit to join the visual art workshop.

He looked despondent and sat in his chair with his eyes cast down at the table. Martin rarely talks.

Whenever I find him in the dementia unit he is sitting in a chair staring at the floor or out into space.

This morning the other residents in our workshop happily got on with their drawings.


Today we decided to try a different strategy with Martin. I had brought in a Beamz interractive infra

red music system. It works by moving your hands throughlaser beams with pre-programmed sounds.

There is a background rhythm section and as you move your hand through the laser beams

you add a particular instrument to the rhythm. Martin sat in his chair and just

stared at this strange looking contraption.  When I moved my hand across the beam of light which indicated

french horns and a new sound came on top of the background rhythm Martin's eyes came alive. I next placed

my hand across the woodwind beam of light and Martin's eyes quickly moved to the right as he saw the

animated sound wave move on the computer desktop. I walked away and within moments he was 

serenading the whole room with a combination of woodwind, violins, french horns and bass. 

We changed the style to a jazz rhythm and Martin was tapping his feet and playing a funky melody using

a combination of vibes, trumpet, bass and piano. 


I now understood what Oliver Sacks said when he described the power of music on his parksonian patients

in Awakenings as "showing me effects on almost every aspect of brain function - and life."  

That's what I love about Sacks. He always considers the humanity of the person ahead of the science.

And Martin was now full of life. 

At the end of the workshop I wheeled Martin back to the recreation room where a group of belly dancers

had been invited in to entertain the residents. After that it was bingo. We have much work to do.




Mapping Hands
Written by Steve on Thursday, 14 August 2014 05:24   


Wanda's Diary entry


Having finished our beautiful boats we today moved on to exploring ‘Maps’.  As a group we discussed what they make us think of and some of the residents shared some great stories of journeys they had taken.  Barbara had travelled much of the Queensland coast in a caravan and spoke of train journeys as a child to boarding school. Maureen shared her tales of travelling from South Hampton to Australia by boat and we all laughed at the recollection of taking children on long car journeys.  As a group we then examined our hands, discussed how the lines on our hands are unique and help to tell the story of our lives.   Each line, scar, ring and wrinkle makes us all unique, they criss cross our hands like the roads, rivers and contours of a map.

For our next art project we are tracing around our hands onto photocopies of map,  drawing  our unique lines  and then stitching around them.  The finished pieces will be mounted on ocean coloured cloth.      


  hands 2 reduced









Written by Steve on Wednesday, 13 August 2014 06:52   


Sat 9 Aug
I noticed Julie Tapau working in a different way across her warp, and could see it was a wrapping technique. I asked her if she had worked in this way before, using this and other netting techniques,and she replied that 'we would make bags and head bands'.
Her wrapping was done carefully and so evenly, then she would return to over/under weaving for a few rows.
Pam Hutley Weaver Artist


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