Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Planting Heartfelt Stories at Skanda Vale Hospice

I had such a beautiful afternoon telling stories to those who are at the end of their life and have come for peaceful and loving nurture from the wonderful team of staff and volunteers at Skanda Vale Hospice. It was such a joy to share the healing tales from my new book, Soul Seeds: Planting Heartfelt Stories. 

We visualised bunches of wild flowers with essential oils, felt the tactile nature of tree rings, drifted to sea and imagined conversations with our cousins, the trees, finishing our stories with hand printing and connecting with the tree that speaks most to our soul.

 'I've told more stories than you have.' One woman said from her bed. I smiled a smile right from my core, for this is the heart of my work. To empower others through life story.

'Your stories are about trees but you know, really they are about life. That's exactly how I feel.' My job here is done.

I know many of you have said kind things about my work with people who are at the end of their life, but truly, we are all either living or dying from the moment we arrive.It is wonderful to bring joy to the living & quietly celebrate life.

I hope each day brings you moments of immense joy & that you are able to weave these silken threads into a cloak that keeps your heart smiling.

Cheryl Beer

Inspirational Writer

If you would like to volunteer at Skanda Vale or find out more about their wonderful work, follow THIS LINK.

If you would like me to tell stories at your bedsides, then feel free to get in touch. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Sound Memories Summer Wildflower Gallery

As the Founder & Director of Sound Memoires Dementia Friendly Radio, I know only too well how difficult the Summer can be for older people who can no longer freely come outdoors. As part of my work I have taken into Care Homes pictures of Wildflowers just growing simply on the roadside and they have given so much joy to people. That is what has inspired me to launch the Summer Wildflower Gallery at Sound Memories Radio.

On our facebook Group Page we have invited our friends to take photographs. Each month, we have a Flower of the Month and we launch with the beautiful Foxgloves that are dancing along the West Wales country lanes, just now.

If you would like to take part and exhibit some of your photographs, feel free to join our group page to find out how.

We are looking for a sponsor for our Wildflower Gallery. We need @ £250.00 to cover the admin costs for the whole Summer. If you feel that this is something you would like to sponsor, then feel free to get in touch. Or, if you would like to make a donation, why not visit our gofundme page.

Have a lovely summery day, friends, really feel it, appreciate the wild flowers on your journey, make a memory that one day, you can return to.

With love

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Somatics and Tinnitus: Bodywork and Movement

This week, a friend kindly contacted me about a youtube clip she had seen concerning the benefits of tinnitus and somatics.  The thing is, there is no medication, treatment or way of reducing or eliminating  tinnitus. I have learnt to live with it by nourishing my soul. When my spirit is uplifted, so I am better able to deal with my condition. 

Sadly, a whole business has developed of so called specialists trying to sell us 'The Cure' so I am skeptical having tried everything from flicking myself on the back of my head, to patches, to special hearing tablets, you name it and none of it comes cheap ... However, I have had somatic treatment before for my back and it was successful. Here's the video that my friend sent ...

Somatics was developed by Thomas Hann and is based on neuro-muscular education using a technique known as pandiculation to release involuntary muscle contraction. In easy speak, as far as I can tell, the body learns certain movements to protect itself and actually, over time, these can be counter productive.

According to Dr Mandell, who is the Doctor in the video clip,  tinnitus sufferers can get relief by relaxing the big muscles in the neck through movements because these have become tense. I can see that. It makes sense to me. 

So, given that my tinnitus is classified as severe and debilitating, that is, 24/7 non stop and about 5 different conflicting tones, and given that I live with hyperacusis, a sound distortion, as a complication, I decided to go to Darren Gibbs, a Somatic Educator in Haverfordwest. It is Darren that I have seen before.

It was a lovely session with Darren lasting about an hour and a half, costing £40 and I did feel calm and relaxed afterwards but truth is, it had absolutely no effect on my tinnitus. However, the session DID teach me something very important that I have not noticed about my body's reaction to hearing loss and I think this may help others, so I will share it.

During a somatic session, one becomes acutely aware of how the body is reacting and every time Darren was giving me instructions, I noticed that my stomach muscles clenched, my face frowned and I held my breath, listening so intensely in case I did not hear him. A bit like as if I was preparing to open a stiff jar. I did not need this intense effort to hear him. In fact, I was so concerned about listening to all the words to make sure I caught them all, that I didn't really hear him at all ... so once I had noticed this, I stopped clenching my stomach, dropped my frown, smiled, started to breathe, sat back and felt relaxed, likely the fist time I have felt relaxed listening to someone since my sudden hearing loss. Listening is an holistic experience and by focusing so intensely on hearing every word, I was missing something of the joy of it as an interaction. 

I started to wonder how it must be for people in conversations with me; my face frowned, stomach clenched, concentrating on their every word in case I miss any. How oddly intense it must be for people. I apologise now to all my friends  who must have wondered where the old me had gone. Well, I'm back. And that's how it feels, like I have let go of worrying about whether or not I can hear you. So, the good news is, that although I might have to ask you to repeat a few things, I will no longer be scowling at you. Instead smiling and enjoying how beautiful you are.

So, thanks Darren, that was an extremely valuable thing to learn. Oh and yesterday, Darren sent me an email with lots of tips and movements for me to maintain ... will keep you posted folks as to any other interesting finds.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope your days are filled with moments of pure love, for love is what makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Top Tips for Recording Dementia Friendly Environmental Sound

Recording Fact Sheet: Sound Memories Radio

It’s so lovely that people have been sending in sound recordings to be included in our Dementia Friendly, Environmental Sound Map

When we are making dementia friendly recordings at Sound Memories Radio, we have to make sure that the sound is what we call ‘clean’ or ‘pure’ that is, without background noise. 

If you want to join in recording for us, here are a few of my Top Tips. If you follow them, it is more likely that your recording will be included.

   1. Whatever you are using to record, you are better to put it down somewhere so that it does not pick up the sound of your hands or the crinkle of your coat or your footsteps, breath, sneeze, sniff … etc

  2. Try to be sure that everyone with you (including the dog) knows that you are recording and ask them kindly to be quiet. Even if they tip toe around in the background, the sound may be picked up by someone with hyperacusis, a sound distortion commonly experienced by people who are in the later stages of dementia.

3. Make sure there is no background traffic noise; the worst culprit for this is the road noise in the distance because although you might think ‘Oh that’s not very loud,’ to someone with hyperacusis, it may well end up being louder than your birdsong, river, sea etc. 

4. Listen back to your recordings as a tester and try a few times is the best. Rivers are very difficult to capture unless you are up close to them. Off course, be careful not to fall in or drop your phone. (Bit of essential Health and Safety there) 

5. Record for @ 3 or 4 minutes. This is why it is good to put your recording equipment down safe, because even light things get heavy after a while.

6. Try using your voice recorder on your phone. This is much easier for me to use. If you send me a video it creates an awful lot of work for me because I have to take the sound off your video through my mixing desk in my upstairs studio and then upload it to my computer, whereas when it is sent as an audio file, I can use it as it is. 

7. Please inbox your audio files to me, Cheryl Beer, via the Sound Memories Radio Group Page on facebook. 

8. If you really like contributing and are likely to do it on an ongoing basis, you might like to think about investing in a Tascam hand held recorder. This is what I use. It has 2 mics and picks up good surround sound for a relatively cheap piece of kit. But, buy a new one, is my advice, so you know there are no issues with it. I have been using these for years and to my mind, simple is the best option. There is one with a 4 track recorder, you don’t need that because you are capturing real, authentic sound, so just get the one track version which comes in at @ £75. That may sound like a alot but mine has lasted for years and I use it for loads of things. 

Oh and the other great thing that I nearly forgot, is that you can buy a sound excluder for it, which is a fluffy microphone shield. It comes with a sponge one but the fluffy ones are better. That way you are less likely to get that horrible wind noise.

9. If you do buy a tascam make sure you press record. I know that sound obvious, but when you press record once, it flashes but is not recording. It’s a chance for you to test the sound levels and adjust them. Then set up the recorder and press record the second time, being sure to keep very still and quiet. 

10. And finally, I think it’s wonderful that you want to help us. Thank you so much but if your recordings are not used, it will be because of the sound quality and not the beautiful gesture you have made. 

11. PS: When you send me your recordings, please tell me what you have recorded and where, so that I can tell those that are listening and it will be nice to put your name too, so that people know who has kindly helped us.

I think that's everything but if something else pops to mind, I will come back and edit this page ... and likewise, if you have any questions just pop along to the group page. Right, I'm off out in the sun to make the most of the woods.

  Thank you once again, for helping me to bring the outdoors to those who are no longer able to go outside.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Dementia Research: Re-connecting to a sense of self through place

Those of you that have followed my journey for some time, will know that for the last four years I have been pioneering innovative ways of empowering older people to be integral to the development of dementia friendly  resources. At sound memories dementia friendly radio, we have our Life Story Channel which is doing really well, a new Inter-generational Channel and our Environmental Sound Maps. 

Last week I blogged explaining why we are looking for funding to explore new ways of working with those who are living with end stage dementia, where hyperacusis is very common. This is a debilitating hearing condition that causes random sound distortion and there is no medication or treatment for it. You can read the full BLOG POST HERE

I know hyperacusis only too well. I have the condition myself as a complication of my own hearing loss. I can not think of anything worse than being in a noisy care home or ward with the sound of air beds and floor buffing machines.

Isn't it enough that someone has end stage dementia. To think that they have this additional complication is heart breaking to me. It was on the discovery of this end stage complication with dementia that I began to explore new ways that we might be able to create something at Sound Memories using Silence and Nature, enabling someone to still get the sense of the outdoors that connects them to self and some relief from their condition. 

Well, a very moving thing happened. In response to that call out this weekend, I had a telephone call from a local family whose mother had sadly, suddenly passed away and the family would like to support our research with donations from their mother's funeral. We will dedicate the new radio channel to their mother. I am almost moved to tears by this kindness. What a wonderful tribute to their mother and a poignant way to remember a loved one, by helping many others.

If you would like to leave a legacy to your loved ones in this way, please feel free to get in touch with me at our Group Page.

I hope wherever you are and whatever stage of life you find yourself, that you can find some moments of joy in your day.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Up Close With Nature: A New Creative Approach to End Stage Dementia & Sound Distortion

As the Director and Founder of Sound Memories Dementia Friendly Radio Station  I have found that a one to one approach when working with people best accommodates the needs of each individual, which vary greatly depending on the type and stages of dementia that each person experiences.

At Sound Memories Radio, our Life Story Channel was born from my MA assignment, working with Louie, a 92 year old woman living in a dementia friendly care home in Carmarthenshire. 

The Life story Channel is aimed at people with early stage dementia, helping with memory loss and providing peer stories for reminiscence.

Then we have our Environmental Sound Map which was an idea born from my work with Mary, who had end stage dementia and longed for the sounds of the farm. Her emotional response to the local sound map I created for her, led to a more extensive piece of work capturing sound maps for other older people.

But research now shows that people who are living with end stage dementia or semantic dementia are more likely to feel discomfort with sound such as music, speech and background noise, as these are complex acoustic signals that rely on the cognitive processes which are effected by dementia. In fact, a high percentage of people with end stage or semantic dementia are known to experience tinnitus and hyperacusis. I know first hand how debilitating these conditions can be.

This is an interesting article about it  HERE from the US National Institute of Health.

We also know that for people with end stage dementia, their lives can become very small and based indoors, so they can no longer visit the places that used to give them joy.

Taking all of these facts into consideration, and also knowing the noisy environments that hospitals and homes can be, I am currently collating a sound free, nature video library. The intention is that the older person with sound intolerance can wear sound excluding headphones  and watch the slowly moving films of their local areas such as parks, museum grounds etc. This way, they can stay connected to outdoors.

You can see one of the films as an example HERE.

I am currently looking for a Research Partner to provide funding so that I can take the work into Care Homes. I would like to trial the films with 3 older people who are living dementia and sound distortion to measure the benefits. 

If you feel that you or your organisation would like to fund this work with me, please feel free to get in touch to talk it through. 

Alternatively, if you would like to make a donation towards the work, here is a link to our GOFUNDME page. Thank you.

Fallen on Deaf Ears

You know me, I always have a few projects on the go and one of the back burners that has been coming along nicely is my campaign to keep my song history alive, even though I am now deaf and can't perform due to tinnitus and hyperacusis. 

I put out a call on facebook and started a Group Page called PLEASE HELP ME KEEP MY MUSIC LIVE and had a wonderful response from musicians.

And then the lovely Michael Kennedy from Welsh Connections and Radio Tircoed contacted me and offered to organise an album of my tracks performed by other people as a fundraiser for my project Sound Memories Dementia Friendly Radio Station ... he spoke with Death Monkey Records in Swansea and they are releasing the album. How amazing is that. Michael is organising it all so get in touch with him if you're interested. They are organising a live night with recording from the desk for those who do not have the ability to record themselves.

Already we have had  the most wonderful track from Karl Schramm a musician in Germany who has been in his studio recording a version of my song flirting with Cliche. He's going to manage the press releases in Germany. Here's a little video with the original song from my Snow Tracks album which I made with my little sister in my kitchen when I first wrote it in 2011 ... 

I can't wait to play you Karl's version. I think I like it even better than my own! LOL. It's so wonderful to hear other people's interpretation of my work.

The working title for the album is 'Fallen on Deaf Ears' and we're going to use a black and white picture for the cover taken by Rowenna Russell of me preforming on the main stage at Women in Tune Festival. It is likely my favourite live shot.

Roweena also took the shot at the top of the page at the same festival. She really is a gifted photographer, I love watching her journey through pictures.

It feels very special indeed that my songs are still going to be out there doing their thing even though I can't be.

Always with love and an open heart, dear ones.