Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Art program helps Prairie View Gardens residents with Alzheimer’s express, communicate, remember

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Memories in the Making, a new fine arts program at Prairie View Gardens, provides residents with Alzheimer’s and dementia a way to unlock memories through art, Activity Director Jessica Dierfeldt said. 
“Memories in the Making is a program that preserves a memory for someone with Alzheimer’s. It lets them express themselves and share something they may not be able to get out otherwise.” 
The program began at Prairie View Gardens about two months ago. Every other Tuesday, Dierfeldt works with a group of residents to creatively communicate important memories.  
“We give them a theme and they draw things that they remember,” she said. 
The themes range from Thanksgiving dinner to first movies to favorite shoes. The theme for the next session will be flowers. 
Participants draw out anything they remember relating to the theme and then paint their works with watercolor. 
Dierfeldt said the activity has been popular with residents.
“Their faces just light up. One resident in particular doesn’t talk much and doesn’t get very involved in other activities, but she loves this. When we did first movies, she drew a scene from ‘Gone With the Wind.’”
Dierfeldt recalled another resident drawing a Husker football game in response to the Thanksgiving dinner theme. No matter what the theme, Dierfeldt said, the program helps residents with Alzheimer’s use creativity to communicate a memory that may be lost, but not forgotten. 
“Some of these things they haven’t talked about in a long time, so to have that memory come back is really special and we can actually start to have a conversation with them,” she said. “A lot of times the words are there, they just can’t get them out.”
She added that the residents don’t need an art background to take part, but she has found that some of the participants have undiscovered art skills. 
“I think this has helped us engage with them in a way we don’t normally get to.” 
Dierfeldt hopes to eventually pair up program participants with artists in the community who will paint their own versions of each theme and then have a Memories in the Making art show. 
She said she plans to continue in the Making for as long as possible. 
“We are seeing so many benefits. I think that when they are able to put that memory on paper, they end up keeping it with them.”

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