Dorothy Erler may have Alzheimer’s disease, but that hasn’t slowed the 82-year-old Westchester resident down one bit.
In 2009, Erler was one of eight individuals who participated in a clinical study conducted by the Cornell University Memory Center based on the TTAP Method, which stands for Therapeutic Thematic Arts Programming.
The innovative program utilizes the arts and meditation to help individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia to have an enhanced quality of life.
“I enjoy the activities,” says Erler, who sketched a picture of a cabin. “The sketch reminded me of a vacation spot that I would go with my family during the summers on Lake Owassa in Northern New Jersey near the Pennsylvania border. We had canoes and rowboats. It was a very memorable time in my life.”
The method has been proven in 11 clinical research studies and in 2010 was awarded “New York State Most Innovative Program.” It is based on nine steps — Conversation, Music & Meditation; Drawing & Painting; Sculpture; Movement & Dance; Poetry & Writing; Food Programming; Theme Event and Phototherapy.
“When performed, these activities stimulate the left and right brain regions, which increase cognitive functioning and psychosocial well-being,” explains Linda Levine Madori, Ph.D., a two-time Fulbright Scholar, clinical therapist, professor, researcher and author of the method.
Currently, the TTAP Method is being used in facilities all over the tri-state area including hospitals, skilled nursing homes, assisted living facililities and community day programs. This year Madori, a Chappaqua resident, will be training nurses, aides and caregivers in the TTAP Method certification training program in Schumacher Nursing Home through Beth Abraham Health and Hospital Services, one of the largest nurse and aide placement services in Westchester.
“The TTAP Method moves modern day research into practice, providing caregivers, healthcare providers and clinicians new and innovative ways in which to interact, communicate and provide person-centered care in an inexpensive non-pharmaceutical intervention,” Madori said.
Erler, who is currently living in an assisted living facility in Westchester, meets with Madori once a week.
“I think Dr. Madori is very good with her relationships with people,” she said. “She can really get them to relax and respond to her.”
Since Madori has been working with Erler she is not the only one who has seen marked improvement. “When I see Dorothy regularly and when she does the TTAP Method her cognitive ability rises. She has had her highest cognitive score she ever had … her neurologist can’t even believe it.”
Erler’s neice, Diane Erler, is grateful for the progress her aunt has made.
“We were very lucky to come to Burke Rehabilitation Center in White Plains when my aunt was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In the time my aunt was in the study we noticed her cognitive skills greatly increased,” she said. “It is not a one shoe fits all program. It is a program that works with a person’s strength and weakness so they can flourish. Dr. Levine Madori really takes time to get to know the patient. She is very in-tune with the elderly. She can definitely make a change in the way people look at Alzheimer’s disease. A lot of people think it is just a memory disease while it is so much more.”
When Madori first started working with Erler, she said she was a little withdrawn and a bit resistant to try new things. By the third week, Erler started to click with the meditation and began to open up and share her personal story.
“I had no idea Dorothy traveled all over the world as a buyer for B. Altman’s. She dressed the president’s wife when they came to New York,” Madori said. “This proves that when somebody lives their life we don’t spend that much time thinking about it, so the TTAP Method helps you think about what you have done and share what you have done over your lifetime with others. It gives you more self-esteem, self-worth and self-satisfaction.”
The TTAP Method has put Erler on the right path. “I think it gives me a little more sense of being able to do more,” she said.
Madori will be forming caregiver support groups, educating individuals on how they can apply the method to enrich the lives of their loved ones who may have Alzheimer’s. The TTAP Method support group also trains the caregiver on how to better cope with caring for a loved one or an individual through meditation and creative art expressions. Group sessions will be held at her private practice in Chappaqua and Armonk.