Half the people in nursing homes suffer from Alzheimers’ disease or related dementia. I the hate this statistic, as much as I hate that dreadful disease. It means that far too many talented people will be robbed, little by little, of their intellect, their memories, their physical abilities and even their vital functions, as the brain is reduced to … nothing. Think of the loved ones and the caregivers who must bear witness to this sad demise, who must cajole and coax, put up with tears, fits, hysteria and decline. Through our programs each month, we bear witness to their challenges and we are here for them, too.
If there is any bright side at all, to me it is that research shows that personal creativity remains after other skills have gone, and involving dementia sufferers in creative pursuits can improve mood, functioning and other skills. As long as people are happy being creative, why not, in this condition, let them create? Sing, dance, paint and play. Enjoy nature, gentle stretching, beautiful music, colorful rooms and gorgeous art. Unfortunately, there often are not nearly enough stimulating, creative experiences in the lives of dementia sufferers.
Tidewater Arts Outreach sends dozens of artists to many locations where they interact with people who live with the confusion and isolation that is Alzheimers’, and the caregivers who do such tremendous work, but who face burnout and discouragement because of the difficult nature of their work. This repost from Scott Kirschenbaum’s March 28, 2012 Huffington Post story is a good read for our artists and hosts who go to share their compassion and creativity with strangers who need our help, our love and most of all, the joyous colors, sounds, movement and poetry that our arts experiences convey. I hope you enjoy Scott’s story, “You’re looking at me like I live here and I don’t: Making a film in the Alzheimer’s Unit.”