DIAMetric

By Dr Tom Christie

April 30th, 2014

Touching the Sky from Solid Ground

Tryn Rose Seley is an American author, photographer, artist and musician who specialises in enhancing the quality of life of people who have dementia.  Her career has many facets, and has encompassed many different artistic nodes including storytelling, improvisation and musical invention.  Shining out through all of her creative efforts, however, is a determination to broaden and redefine the role of the modern carer, outlining the many ways that techniques both old and new - the technological and the traditional - can help to improve the lives of those affected by dementia, introducing them to rewarding experiences and constructive opportunities for social interaction.

In her book 15 Minutes of Fame, Seley posits an inspirational new take on Andy Warhol’s famous quote.  If, as Warhol so notably suggested, we will all be famous for fifteen minutes in the future, then Seley is proposing that we work hard to make the most of each second, maximising the potential to do something positive and meaningful for a quarter of an hour each day to emphasise the value of the relationship which exists between the person who has dementia and their carer.

Seley’s book is full of motivational accounts, drawn from her own personal experiences, of how small but meaningful actions can have long-term benefits to the lives of people with dementia, as well as the people around them.  She makes the significant point that the condition does not only influence the person who is directly affected by it, but has a bearing on family, friends and carers alike.  It is by stressing this commonality that she broadens her analysis to include everyone whose life has been touched by dementia, whether personally, indirectly or professionally.

As someone whose career has embraced so many different modes of artistic expression, it is no surprise that Seley also uses her book to demonstrate the hugely beneficial role that the arts can play in the lives of people who have dementia.  Practical suggestions jostle for space alongside anecdotal accounts of the positivity that the author has witnessed being generated from art appreciation classes, reminiscence therapy, and participation in musical recitals.  The book is illustrated throughout by Seley’s own photography, a deftly-chosen selection of powerful imagery which repeatedly underscores the fact that life experience need not be constrained when dementia is diagnosed.

Throughout the book, Seley continually revisits the central theme of ‘solid ground’: the need to work towards providing tangible and meaningful experiences throughout the lives we encounter which ground us in the here and now, rather than allowing the enormity of dementia to sweep us along instead.  If we have to be on this journey, she seems to be suggesting, then why not take the time to enjoy the finer details around us as we go.  It is a evocative motif which contains an understated power, largely through the subtlety of its employment - never overused, but compelling enough to keep arresting the reader’s attention.

It is difficult to imagine a more upbeat book than 15 Minutes of Fame, or one which could be more heartfelt or inspirational.  It is also a work which is profoundly inclusive, bursting with energy and enthusiasm as it articulates stories of hope and optimism which are sure to bring both positivity and new buoyancy to the lives of its readers.  Whatever your own relationship may be to dementia issues, this thoughtfully-presented book is almost certain to contain something of value.

Tryn Rose Seley’s official website can be found at http://caregiverheart.com/.

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Categories: Arts Dementia and Music