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Art as a Spice to Life

Updated: Jul 28

It's so easy for family caregivers to get stuck in the daily routines of their loved one's care.


Art as a Spice to Life

Each new day brings the same as the last– make breakfast, dole out medication, struggle with their hygiene, and manage challenging behaviors. The sameness can contribute to your emotional and physical exhaustion and strain your capacity to be a warm and loving son, daughter, husband, wife, or friend. Taking the time to be mindful of creative needs can give both of you a refreshing mini-vacation from illness.


Making and finding art opportunities for your loved one may not be as difficult as it may appear. Watercolors, paper, brushes, and a kitchen table and you are good to go. Share the creative process with your loved one. Making art together also makes memories.


Many community and senior centers offer art classes for people in early and mid-stage dementia. Contact your local Agency on Aging or other organizations that provide local support and counseling services for people who have dementia and their families.


Another easy way to find art programs is by searching the internet using keywords such as "art and dementia". Narrow your search by including the name of your state, city, or town. If you come up empty-handed, just ASK. You have everything to gain when you explain to senior center directors and directors of other organizations the need for art programs customized to meet the needs of people who have dementia.


Other options are the art education programs that many museums and, some galleries, offer. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), in New York City, has set the standard for making art accessible to those with Dementia. With the guidance of specially trained museum docents, visitors explore selected museum collections where they can see and, when appropriate, touch wall art and sculpture. Interactive installations may invite viewers to experience sight, touch, and sound. The conversation about art and the environment is another facet of the MoMA program. However, feelings and memory – not art history – are the inspirations for meaningful interactions and conversation


The MoMA website gives a complete description of the MoMA Project. (https://www.moma.org/meetme/modules/index ) Search the internet to locate nearby programs. Type in the name of the state followed by descriptive words such as “museum,” “Alzheimer,” “Dementia,” and “outreach.”


The year after my mother’s death, I decided to volunteer some of my newly realized free time to the dementia community. I developed a curriculum that I hoped the “artists” would find satisfying and challenging. The outcome was a brief presentation to a local support group was four eager participants and their spouses. The three men and one woman had various types of dementia. Over the year, the artists learned basic design principles, made relief prints, painted self-portraits, and designed and printed T-shirts for themselves and their family members. Donations covered the cost of supplies.


I expected the spouses would take their off-duty time to run errands. But as it turned out, they formed an impromptu support group and spent the class time in a nearby coffee shop. Soon, “just coffee” morphed into family dinners. One of my most precious moments was when one man told me that the art class made him feel that he was becoming something rather than losing what he had once been.


Want to Know More?


1. “I Remember Better When I Paint.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=54AtoQVGfwU (Accessed February 26, 2016)


2. Hayes, J. and S. Povey, The Creative Arts in Dementia Care: Practical Person-Centered Approaches and Ideas. London, England: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2010.


Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, Ph.D., is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.” Available through Amazon.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org

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