Can The Arts help Alzheimer’s patients find the center of average living? Is it possible that imagination and abstraction can actually provide form and coherence for the fading mind?
Meet “Memories in the Making” —
Patients, their caretakers, Alzheimer’s doctors and arts-program organizers say the benefits of taking up a brush, viewing a masterpiece or hearing the strains of a classical arrangement are multi-faceted.
“An art or music experience is another way to give people a vehicle to express themselves, to communicate feelings they might not be able to share verbally anymore,” says Beth Kallmyer, director of Family and Information Services for the Alzheimer’s Association.
These aren’t arts-and-crafts sessions involving Popsicle sticks and paste, say those who lead such programs. Major museums and symphony halls are involved, as well as professional artists.
“Our program has integrity. We’re using archival materials and brushes. It’s not a craft program. We really believe people with dementia deserve high-quality materials, high-bond watercolor paper,” says Joanne Fisher, the statewide coordinator and event manager for “Memories in the Making,” an Alzheimer’s Association of Colorado series that collaborates with professional artists from the state to help patients produce and sometimes sell their artwork.
If we press our bodies to remember our minds, we are doomed to fail in that effort.
If, however, we allow our minds the freedom to wander and to think beyond blood and bone, we begin to recapture the essence of us — and what we mean to each other — even as the mist of who we used to be repeatedly dissolves before our very eyes.