Puppet show helps Briarcliffe residents with dementia connect to their past

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Pamela Raymond, who serves as assistant activities director at Briarcliffe Manor in Johnston, took on a new and much celebrated title last week.

Raymond – who is usually all smiles and can be seen Thursday mornings at the Johnston Police Department’s award-winning Walk with Cops – enjoyed her title of producer/director for one of Briarcliffe’s most unusual events.

Briarcliffe’s Angel Dubois turned set production manager, while Karan Phillips took on the role as set designer.

“Everyone is excited about the show,” said Penny Riddensdale, activities director at Briarcliffe Manor. “We had all kinds of characters … grandmother, a sous chef, Chef Luigi, The Sleeping Bear, a monkey and tiger.”

Briarcliffe Manor’s first-ever Puppet Show, which was held inside the third-floor community room, was an overwhelming success and an event that Riddensdale said “tied in with our Puppet Therapy Program.”

For inside of 45 minutes, the setting featured a number of skits, complete with Mary Connors – a.k.a. Narrator: The Grandmother – adding fun and laughter to the puppet show that was well-designed and directed for the residents with dementia at the award-winning health care facility.

“The purposes of the Puppet Show,” Riddensdale said, “is so the dementia residents can connect with their past. The goal is that through the puppets our residents will laugh, or talk, anything that demonstrates they are making a connection.”

Riddensdale, who complimented each and every cast member that was dressed in specially made costumes, emphasized: “It also helps to break down the barriers of dementia that residents experience.”

Thus, at the conclusion of the heart-warming production, many of the residents were smiling and Raymond issued “special congratulations” to her entire troupe.

“Let’s do this again, soon,” a cast member suggested while chatting with the producer/director. “This was so much fun.”

The characters, meanwhile were portrayed by: Ann Antosia, Monkey and Tiger; Angie Cassamajor, Sous Chef; Rosetta Davis, Chef Luigi; Sally Weber, The Sleeping Bear; and Victoria Wood, The Giraffe and Elephant. 

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