Natasha Goldstein-Levitas – Dance Movement Therapy for Loved Ones with Dementia

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Natasha Goldstein-Levitas, MA, BC-DMT
Natasha Goldstein-Levitas, MA, BC-DMT

Natasha Goldstein-Levitas, MA, BC-DMT 

Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist;
Aging & Dementia Care Advisor

Natasha is a Board Certified Dance/Movement Therapist specializing in Aging and Dementia Care. She has two decades of experience working with older adults, individuals living with dementia, and their care partners, across various cultures and socio-economic backgrounds.

Natasha feels strongly that regular therapeutic engagement, the creative arts, and a welcoming, sensory-inviting setting are key components to wellness. She is committed to helping to promote healthier aging and overall quality of life for individuals with varying cognitive and physical abilities. She uses a person-centered, movement and sensory hybrid approach, to help connect and EngAge.

Natasha is a published author on topics related to her work. Her professional history includes: healthcare administration, therapeutic program development, care partner training, Dance/movement therapy (DMT) clinical supervision, aging and dementia workshops, and regular DMT and therapeutic engagement sessions.

Hanh: [00:03:48] So what got you interested in the fuel of dance and movement therapy or DMT?

Natasha: [00:03:55] Yes. I’ve been a dancer and mover all of my life and we [00:04:00] actually all are movers and I’ll get into that shortly. Um, but I didn’t discover dance movement therapy. I didn’t know it existed until my final year in college.

[00:04:11] And I, I realized that the fusion of. Psychology human interaction and movement and wellness was really something that I feel that I really wanted to dive into. So I did, and I, like I said, I’ve been working with, with older adults and individuals living with dementia and their care partners ever since I started graduate schools to get my master’s in dance movement therapy.

Hanh:[00:04:44] what dance and movement therapy is and how can it help the aging adults?

Natasha: [00:04:51] Absolutely. I’m just going to read here. Dance movement therapy defined by the American dance therapy association. For anyone [00:05:00] who’s interested is quote the psychotherapeutic use of movement to promote emotional, social, cognitive, and physical integration of the individual.

Natasha: [00:05:09] For the purpose of improving health and wellbeing. So really based on the idea that the mind and body are connected and movement is constant throughout the life cycle and movement is universal. That very holistic approach by helping to promote wellness, cognitively, physically, emotionally, socially, simultaneously.

Natasha: [00:05:33] And so why this is important for all individuals. But, um, especially for individuals who are aging and perhaps living with dementia as well, it is a way to help connect and feel, feel that sense of self to feel validated, to feel supported creative arts therapists, art therapy, music therapy, and dance therapy.

Hanh: [00:07:23] What you call person centered movement and sensory hybrid approach?

Natasha: [00:07:28] Yes. Yes. Thank you for saying all of those lovely things. And I agree with, with everything I, so I’ve come to use and call my approach. This person-centered movement and sensory hybrid approach just based on work of pioneers in the field. And I’ll. Certainly, name them and give them credit. only file her validation.

[00:07:51] There are techniques and approach and keep a smell and a positive approach to dementia care.

Hanh: [00:19:52] Let me ask you this. Are there certain types of seniors who respond better to this approach? Let’s say DMT or in general.

[00:20:00] than others, or does it work well? Pretty much across the board.

Natasha: [00:20:04] So dance movement therapy and movement techniques can work across the board. Dance movement. Therapists can work with young children and infants to individuals that end up life and older adults and individuals living with mental illness and dementia, just across the board and some movement to get back to something I was going to touch upon earlier movement.

Natasha: [00:20:26] It stimulates neural connections and, and engages. Um, the wholesale, so cognitive, physical, spiritual, um, all of the self.

Natasha: [00:22:08] So yes, dance movement therapy is beneficial for physical health and emotional health and wellness across the board.

[00:22:16] And I also want to say that, although I am a dance movement therapist, I do believe that it takes all disciplines, all practices coming together, and we’re like part of that pie. And it’s finding what, what works best for, for that unique individual and or for that care partner, what is going to, what is going to help them feel empowered and well, yes.

Hanh: [00:22:45] So for the older adults, do they need to be doing strenuous exercise to reap the benefits or is it like a gentler movement? Is that enough?

Natasha: [00:22:56] That’s a great question. I know I’ve gone off on so many [00:23:00] tangents. Okay. But, uh, movement can be very subtle to have an impact. So we’re actually born moving and breathing.

Natasha: [00:23:10] So sometimes it’s just about matching someone’s. Breathing’s getting them more in touch with feeling their lungs. Oxygenated air that process that we’re doing throughout the life cycle and eye contact or, or just moving our shoulders together, or even a playful moving our eyebrows, um, an eyebrow dance.

Natasha: [00:23:32] And again, it’s about the dances about the connection. And especially when you’re talking about older individuals and individuals. I think with dementia, that’s really, that’s where the movement. And I think that the richness is that exchange. So it’s really tapping into what is accessible to these individuals.

Natasha: [00:29:49] Simple. Simple ways of just being, and allowing, giving into what you’re feeling as a care partner as well, and how that might dovetail [00:30:00] with, without of your, your loved one. They’re feeling their own losses and traumas and frustrations. And can we make some silly faces? One of the recommendations in my book, some exaggerated facial expressions of how we’re feeling are we feeling tired or angry or upset or joyful and.

Hanh: [00:31:16] So do you think the benefit is to moving to an age kind of culture with our healthcare system? What would this shift look like for residents and senior living community?

Natasha: [00:31:29] Yes. I think we’re doing a great job with moving towards this age kind of culture, but I think we have a long way to go.

[00:31:38] I think it’s going to take individuals at all levels of care and in our culture to too. Really understand empathy, really, to understand what, what older adults value, what they respect that they deserve and [00:32:00] what senior living environments should look like and feel like, and not just. The lobbies, but what does care really look like?

[00:32:09] How can we empower the individuals living in these environments and care partners and administrators, and policy makers to really be at the table together and, you know, discuss what is best for quality of life.

Hanh: [00:36:53] Yeah, that’s great. That’s great. Thank you. [00:36:56] Thank you so much for sharing your insight, your expertise and [00:37:00] your journey and your book. Yeah. I wish you the best of your book. I know it’s going to do great. And is there anything else that you would like to share with the listeners?

Natasha: [00:37:10] Gosh, well, I, I just, again, so honored and privileged to have the opportunity to be with you this morning and share, share my love of movement and passion for sensory engagement and engagement as a whole. I just think let’s keep trying it. It takes a lot of trial and error. It’s not even the recommendations in my book are not full-proof.

Natasha: [00:37:33] There’s nothing that that’s going to guarantee. I’m a 100% harmonious partnership, but that is the dance. There was a quote, I forget who said it, but when we stumble, make it part of our dance and I think that’s really what I would encourage everyone to keep doing, whether we’re working or living with older individuals or as a care partner.

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