Many aging seniors lose the ability to recall memories. Some of this is a result of the aging process but for far too many it’s because of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. What are the options for seniors facing this challenge? Verbalizing stories early in the diagnosis is an exercise worth exploring. It can allow a family member to capture in writing or via audio recording the history that still resides in a senior’s mind. Storytelling with pictures and images is another way to spur those memories that are “stuck” and often is a successful way to help a senior articulate their memories. These memories are the connections from their past to who they are now and the challenges and fears they are facing as they age.
Another option explored is using art. Imagine a group of people with memory challenges, gathering in a sunlit room. They’re tentative, cautious, don’t know each other, and all are at an early stage in their diagnosis. They are with a caregiver, often a spouse or family member, and they too are apprehensive at this process. Soon enough though, they begin to act as a group, enthusiastically smearing colorful paints onto white paper. Communication in this room is comfortably awkward as words are searched for and caregivers share stories of acceptance and learnings. Anything goes for folks who feel like everything was taken. Relaxation is attained and memories, however fleeting, in the grip of Alzheimer’s disease, are created. Participants are, for the duration of the session, comfortable with each other.
Welcome to the weekly “Memories in the Making” watercolor session under the auspices of the Oregon Alzheimer’s Association. While participants pay nothing, what they gain is priceless. The best of their works will eventually go to auction to raise funds for programs such as this and to help the Alzheimer’s Association blunt the pain of a relentless disease. In 2018, nearly $180,000 was raised from their paintings in the Portland Metropolitan market alone.
Classes like these are offered at the Alzheimer’s Association office, Home Matters Caregiving office, and at more than 200 care communities across Oregon. Being able to gently guide participants in this process allows others to see the remarkable artwork created by folks who, in some cases, are uncommunicative otherwise. “You know life makes sense when you bring joy to someone’s life in a way that they weren’t exposed to prior to this opportunity,” says Christina Foutch, an Occupational Therapist and a specialist in Alzheimer’s care. Not only is art created, but also memories.
For further information contact The Alzheimer’s Association 1650 NW Naito Pkwy, Portland, OR 97209 or 1.800.272.3900 and ask specifically for locations where Memories in The Making is being offered.
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Home Matters Caregiving