Power of Poetry

Guest blog post by: Denise Lima-Laskiewicz, ADC/EDU, ICRmT


Copyright by CanStockPhoto

In the Assisted Living facilities and Long term care facilities there is a challenge to motivate residents to participate in activities and in their activities of daily living.  The individuals experience a variety of emotional setbacks such as isolation, depression and low self-esteem.  The reason that the person is regressed or may not respond is they think the other person wants the correct answer.  The individual feels intimidated and judged because they are not viewed as normal.  In today’s society, individuals who are ill are not viewed as healthy individuals.  The individual who have physical disabilities and severe mental illness withdraw further,  Activity professionals are always looking for new ideas to stimulate their clients and residents.

Remotivation therapy is one such modality that an Activity professional can use.  Remotivation therapy consists of five steps but it is in the second step that it provides a strong connection to start the program.  The second step is entitled “Bridge to the Real World” where there are questions that lead into the poem that will be the topic of the session.  The poem is related to the topic that will be discussed during the program.

The poem is important and/ or the program because of its precedence.  In the beginning when remotivation therapy was discovered by Dorothy Hoskins Smith, she found it benefited individuals who were highly regressed and withdrawn.  The poems  were able to motivate these individuals who were withdrawn.  Today the arts are known to motivate individuals to come out of their shell but when it was introduced at that time no one knew that.

Poetry is a critical element in the session because it helps to explore and establish the topic.  Also the poetry that is used in remotivation therapy is impersonal, non-threatening, and once removed. The poem serves as an objective, self-review.  The objective, positive poem is able to draw the individual out of their regressive state. The poem helps to remotivate these individuals while they listen or read the poem aloud.  The poem is simple in nature.

Normally a person will respond to a poem that is friendly and nice.  Especially if the poem is based upon every day events. The individual who is regressed will respond because it is a non-threatening poem.  After reading the poem questions can be asked related to the poem.  Questions are combined with poetry because the individual is not motivated to respond only to the poem. However, when a remotivation therapist asks question the individual is remotivated to respond. It’s beneficial to include props when introducing and discussing the poem. The props can be pictures, sounds and actual object about the topic at hand.

Poems are important in a remotivation session because it provides the opportunity for the individual to discuss topics that are objective in nature.  Poems are used to enhance the program because it is rhythmic and fun. This is the beginning where the clients and/or the residents are remotivated to interact with each other and his/her peers.

Living at the end of life: the TR Twist


Photo credit: CanStockPhoto

I had the privilege to attend a training session titled:

“Living at the end of life: the TR twist.”

I only attended part 1 out of the 2 training sessions.

This session was provided at the ATRA annual conference in the Chicago-area on Tue. Sept. 13th by:

Barb Stuebing, CTRS/R; and Lisa Frazior, CTRS.


Who attended?

They asked people to raise hands at different times: do you work with geriatrics? Community? Behavioral health?

I [Danny Pettry] was the only one in the room who worked with pediatrics.

One of the reasons I did attend: I started out in college way back in the late 90s thinking I would be a rec therapist with seniors in a skilled nursing setting or a nursing home or community for seniors. However, my first job was with pediatrics in behavioral health and I’ve worked there for 14+  years. I wanted this session as a re-fresher for working with people on the other end of the age spectrum.


Danny Pettry comments:

  • the truth is: we all die. It isn’t something we often talk about in our society. However, it happens. It is part of the life cycle.
  • The speakers asked how many of us were comfortable talking about it?
  • I proudly felt: I can do this because I am a mental health counselor, too. We received some discussion cards. My two partners in my small group became tearful. Why is that so contagious? I didn’t have physical tears, but my heart was crying. We discussed people in our own family.  I hope my parents don’t read this blog entry – but to be honest, I told them I attend this session because I know my parents are getting elderly and I know they won’t live forever and I know most likely they will pass away before me (unless I’m in an accident – which is likely because I’m on the interstate driving a lot). But It was tough stuff.
  • I didn’t attend part 2 of this training (the after lunch part) for a few reasons: I attended the mindfulness training, which is something I teach at work to kids, but have not had official training in, and because I had plugged the mindfulness training during the one I presented, and because this was just an emotional session. They had tissues.

Here is a link for the cards I was telling you about:

http://codaalliance.org/ (the link has a lot of resources).

Here is a link directly to the cards I was talking about: http://codaalliance.org/go-wish/

The cards ask many things about death and dying. I want to get copy of them.


The speakers shared how sometimes a person would bring up a tough subject during recreation. They might be playing cards and feel distracted and feel open to share: I think I’m dying. I think it is my time.

The speakers wanted to know how many in the audience were capable and prepared to deal with that.


It is hard.

Danny Pettry experiences: I was completing a 60 hour practicum as a senior living facility. I was going several days a week. (this was probably early 2002 or early 2001). It was spring. One elderly guy was 100-years-old and active. His hobby was making wooden toys. He had a lot of them and they were very good quality: trucks, cards, boats, dolls. I was sitting beside him on the porch by the humming bird feeder that didn’t have any birds yet because it was too early in the season. I asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He said he wanted me to be there. His wife had passed. His only child had passed from old-age. His siblings had passed. He was alone, except for the wonderful staff and other people at the facility. I showed up on his birthday. He had passed the day before. I went through the stages: denial, anger, depression. It took me a while to accept it. And I had only known this guy for a few weeks. It is tough stuff. I admire the people who work with this population.


The presenters spoke that the goal is: provide the best quality of life right now. When people participate they are often able to process stuff. Danny Pettry: I thought this sounded a lot like mindfulness and being in the moment. Focusing on the future causes anxiety and worry.


The speakers presented about getting prepared:

  • having a health care power of attorney,
  • advance directive,
  • living will,
  • 5-wishes, and
  • polst.

DannyPettry: my father had told me many years ago that he had assigned my younger brother to that. He said because he lives closer and in town and could make a quick decision. I personally think my dad made that choice because he was afraid I wouldn’t say pull the plug like he wants. However, I think being more passionate, I’d be able to do so to stop the suffering (if that were to happen). I hope he goes peacefully in his sleep when it happens.


I didn’t attend part 2 (as I said above).

They played the David Bowie video on youtube (Changes) because they were talking about making changes in how care is provided. I felt a bit sad then too because I’m a David Bowie fan and he has passed away earlier this year. I’m not sure the speakers were aware of that. They may have been.

Below is a video Bowie released right before he passed away that I think is interesting. The presenters didn’t play the video below: