I received an art therapy referral for Brittany, a 19-year-old on our pediatric hospice services living with a rare cancer that affects her connective and soft tissue. Ironically, the referral specifically stated she is not interested in making any art, but loves makeup.
The word “art” can be off-putting to a lot of people and can even prevent them from accepting art therapy services, so I was looking forward to working with someone with such a unique request. I reached out to Brittany’s mother to schedule a visit. Her mother reiterated early in our conversation that Brittany did not want to make any art, only makeup. I explained how I would respect Brittany’s wishes, that makeup is a creative outlet and our ultimate goal together is to use this creative expression to help support Brittany.
Moments matter. This phrase has been on my mind as I reflect lately on my work as a music therapist and as a hospice worker. From a simple smile and “good morning” to the woman sitting alone in her chair, to an entire team coming together to surprise a patient with a birthday party, I’ve seen how much this rings true.
My dog Sydney and I have been a pet therapy team with Journey Care for the last two years. When people think of therapy dogs most picture a little pup who will come lay quietly in their lap or on their bed. But when we arrive we can see the surprise in their eyes; Sydney is 80 pounds of labradoodle. Her size makes it easy for patients to reach her from their chair or bed. And people have shared that having a big dog lean on you is like getting a wonderful furry hug.
Many of us are familiar with a fabulous quote often attributed to William Shakespeare or Pablo Picasso:
“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
The all-volunteer SOUL Harbour Ranch Animal Therapy Program has found our gift and we are happy to “give away” the unconditional love of our very special miniature therapy horses, miniature therapy donkeys and therapy dogs to JourneyCare and other organizations throughout the Chicago area!
Buttons is one of our trained, furry volunteers who provides affection and comfort to our patients and their families in their homes, assisted-living and care facilities, and at our CareCenters. What a good dog!
I'm Buttons, a JourneyCare therapy dog that works with Steve, my partner and owner. We've been a pet therapy team with JourneyCare for over six years. We bring joy, companionship and stress relief to comfort care patients who like animals or miss their own pets. We visit patients and their loved ones in the CareCenters, and at retirement homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities and their homes. Steve's first therapy dog was Annie, a golden retriever, and they were partners together for six years also.
My name is Colleen and this is my buddy Patches. We have the privilege of visiting JourneyCare’s Marshak Family Hospice CareCenter in Glenview as pet therapy dogs. We try to provide some comfort, companionship, physical contact and stress relief for hospice and palliative care patients, their families and visitors. Did you know that by giving patients and families something to look forward to, our visits can help improve their quality of life?
I will always remember my hospice patient’s dog, Jack. Jack was a medium-sized, furry mutt, with all the friendliness of a well-loved and trained dog. My patient was a man who was deeply loved by family and friends... and his dog, Jack.
As the patient was dying, Jack was lying awake with his head on his front legs, under the patient’s bed. The family told me Jack had been there over 24 hours and was refusing to come out to eat or drink. Jack and his human friend were inseparable in life. And Jack stayed there, under the patient’s bed, until the funeral home arrived.
Last December I had the pleasure of visiting a retired artist and teacher. His advanced prostate cancer left him with pain throughout his body, and his bladder spasms and infections had helped to slowly cease his social life. He was referred to music therapy services to elevate his mood and lessen social isolation, to promote reminiscence, story-sharing, and life review, and to refocus him away from feelings of pain and discomfort. As with all clients who I see for music therapy, I have the wonderful challenge of finding how music interventions can assist in easing identified symptoms. Knowing that the brain can only take in so much information at once, using Brian’s* preferred music held his attention and engaged him in enjoyable and meaningful moments, pulling his focus away from his pain. The perception of his pain and discomfort lessened as we sang together and talked about the music he loved throughout his life.
Pelayia Limbos was an extraordinary artist. She was also my best friend, as well as my mother. Her paintings and photography reflect the many facets of her "core being." She was brilliant, pioneering, solid, modest, gentle, soft spoken, subtle, complex, honest and to put it simply – exceptional.
Her style was definitely her own. She was an individual, and she was completely authentic. I found it hard to imagine, however it’s true, that my mom did not believe the masses liked or appreciated her artwork! When I reminded her that someone had commented on the absence of a newsletter issue, or that a friend had just requested to be on her newsletter list (or when the deadline was missed, due to illness or life ... or that people were inquiring/still awaiting its arrival) … or when I tried to remind her that people purchased her paintings from her original art show many years ago ... or when I reminded her, “that it is always an honor... whenever people choose to hang an artist’s work in their home”... she consistently, modestly replied, “Oh, they are just being kind.”