Newsletter – July 2013

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Arts & Alzheimer’s – How do you do that?

July 2013 Newsletter for Seniors on Vancouver Island

At the close of my article for the Seniors 101 newsletter back in November 2012 I alluded to sharing the nuts and bolts of how-to from We Rage We Weep Alzheimer Foundation’s Arts & Alzheimer’s program.  So as promised here they are.  However, let me preface by saying that at Arts & Alzheimer’s our primary goal is to establish an atmosphere of unconditional acceptance.  There is no judgement of the person, the work or how our participants interpret a project.  They are free to simply express themselves through the art, but don’t allow that word “art” to be or big or scary.  Some of our clients put a lot of expectation on themselves because of the “art” word.  As was expressed to me by one of my wonderful artist volunteers, think of it as “creating” rather than “art” and take away the possible intimidation.

Ok, you have an accepting space in which to create, now what to create?  Well, truly the options are endless.  To borrow a phrase from an episode of Star Trek, Next Generation (a personal favorite), “crayons can take you more places than a star ship”!  A true statement to be sure only it extends far beyond crayons to coloured pencils, paints, bits of paper clued on a page forming a lovely scenic view, photos clipped from magazines become a beautiful collage of your favorite trip and a few beans or lentils added to an old paper towel tube with the ends taped closed make you the headliner in your very own band.  Your instrument must be appropriately decorated, of course!

What if your loved one has never ventured into this creative world before?  Well, luckily no prior expertise is necessary.  All that is required is a little imagination and probably a hefty amount of encouragement.  Projects can be a source of fulfilment, pride, self expression and quality time spent with your loved one in a whole new way.  You may discovery stories or interests you never realized before.  It’s a wonderful journey so enjoy.

Where do the ideas come from or the supplies for that matter?  Well, a trip to the dollar store or Michaels may be in order.  Take your loved one with you.  See what grabs their attention.  What colours, textures and items are they drawn to?  Start simple.  A piece of construction paper and some colourful bits of felt could become an abstract collage once glued to the page.  A sketch book with some outlines inside that could be filled in with pencils or paints might be a place to start.  Look to nature for inspiration.  Go for a walk, pick some pretty wild flowers, take them home & make a flower arrangement to display.  Are the grandkids coming by?  Bake cookies or cupcakes and decorate together.   Make it a multi-generational activity.  Your local library’s selection of art books or the internet, both are great idea resources.  Things may start out slow but as your loved one is encouraged to experiment they will often become more enthused.  One of our program participants has a bathroom at home “wallpapered“in their art work.  Another gets out their “portfolio” to share whenever friends or family visit.  Be prepared for this to happen repeatedly as what may seem like small accomplishments to you are a big deal to them.  Support that!  And, of course, realize they don’t remember you’ve already seen their treasures.

Some final tips:

  • Use their interests as a guide
  • Be aware of attention span and stamina and plan accordingly (45 minutes to an hour maximum)
  • You may need to start the activity yourself and have them join in
  • Keep it simple
  • Be encouraging
  • Do with, NOT FOR!

Chuck expectations and control out the window and just give yourself and your loved one permission to HAVE FUN!  Heck, maybe you’ll even consider joining us at Arts & Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Marjorie Moulton

About the Author Dr. Marjorie Moulton
Executive Director & Founder, We Rage We Weep Alzheimer Foundation

Dr. Marjorie Moulton, a 23-year resident of Victoria, BC, began her career in allopathic medicine and psychology in 1989.   A graduate of the International College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Dr. Moulton, earned her doctorate in Oriental Medicine, ran a successful private acupuncture practice in Victoria for 12 years and taught 2 years for Oshio College of Acupuncture and Herbology.  Sense its inception in 2007, Dr. Moulton has served on the Board of Directors for the national Alzheimer Foundation for Caregiving in Canada (AFCC) – Canadian arm of the Alzheimer Foundation of America (AFA).

After the loss of her father to Alzheimer’s in August of 1995 and following on the acclaim of her mother, June Fuller Moulton’s book We Rage, We Weep: A Rural Caregiver’s Experience Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease published in 2000, Dr. Moulton founded We Rage We Weep Alzheimer Foundation in January 2006.

Career & Foundation Milestones:

  • May 2006 – the Foundation received its charitable status
  • January 2008 – Dr. Moulton & David Rittenhouse started Project Lifesaver of Greater Victoria
  • April 2011 – Dr. Mouton launched Arts & Alzheimer’s in partnership with Juan de Fuca Arts & Crafts Guild and Louise Rose
  • Dr. Moulton recently began an innovative new companion program with partner organization Lifetime Networks, a non-profit that supports persons with disabilities
  • Lasting Legacies is an opportunity to ensure the memory of your loved one has a positive enduring impact through bequests to the Foundation