Expressive art is an integral part of the Adult Care Center’s activity program. As a society we sometimes struggle with age appropriateness, knowing individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other neurological diseases are limited in their cognitive abilities. Offering person centered care, the Center shifts focus to find “abilities” within “disabilities” by utilizing their preserved strengths to maximize optimum potential.
Throughout the year’s expressive art has become a “go to activity”. Implementation occurs 3 times a week roughly for a 45-minute time frame. However, some participants enjoy engaging in art for copious amounts of time due to the therapeutic value/ experience on that given day. The value in this process is also voiced by participants themselves “are we painting today?”
Take into consideration that individuals with Alzheimer’s disease have more and more limited opportunities to make independent decisions as their disease progresses. An activity such as art affords individuals multiple opportunities to make personal decisions/choices. For example, during a typical art session, brush size, paint selection, texture and supplemental materials are all taken into account based upon client preferences. Various participants also work on each piece. This allows each individual to “shine”, highlighting their particular skill set without them becoming frustrated or overwhelmed. For instance, some individuals are more concrete thinkers and meticulous, while other individuals may be more abstract in nature.
Upon completion, an Art Appreciation activity takes place. This allows participants to give each artist recognition and praise for his/her accomplishments. Participants also describe images portrayed, verbalize likes/dislikes (color, texture, design) and finalize the process by naming the piece. Completed masterpieces are then put on display around the Center. Every so often spontaneous comments are made by participants regarding artwork such as “isn’t that beautiful?” or “see that piece over there? I did that!”. Evoking creativity and emotion takes on a new dimension when participants have that kind of recall in the “here and now” moment along with a sense of self validation.
There is so much value and impact not only for them, but also their families. Seeing the joy that exudes from family members is very enlightening. Knowing that their loved one is not emotionally trapped by this disease and they are able to enhance their quality of life in other facets. In many regards this is a sentimental gift to the family “holding on” to that healthy aspect of their loved one’s life.
The progression of this program has also led to several “Art on the Brain” exhibits within the community. This particular event showcases the Center’s artwork by individuals with dementia and also builds a sense of community awareness! Roughly 50 pieces are put on exhibit and some are purchased throughout the event. Often families attend the event with their loved one. This captures the essence of their journey while painting the many colors of their lives……some faded, some bold…..some left to the imagination.