One of the strengths of the Fox Valley Memory Project (FVMP) is its commitment to giving people living with dementia and their care partners opportunities for arts engagement. This includes people still living in their homes, as well as those who have moved to residential care.

Since we began, the FVMP has sponsored annual community events to showcase various forms of creativity. We began with a Poetry Party with Alzheimer Poetry Project founder, Gary Glazner (http://www.alzpoetry.com/). Gary has an international reputation and was recently in Wisconsin to do some training in his method, a method still used in some of our residential care facilities.

Our next big project was TimeSlips Town, which featured the creative storytelling of residents of various care facilities. TimeSlips (www.timeslips.org) is a renowned method of engaging the imaginations of people with dementia, regardless of their language ability.

The following year, we had a drumming celebration with Tom Gill who came up from Milwaukee to teach ushow to make drums and joyful noises with them. In 2016, for our fourth event, our “On a Positive Note”chorus collaborated with the newVoices choir (http://newvoiceschoir.org/) and long-term care residents to present a moving afternoon of varied music.

This year, on May 20, we’ll be sponsoring another arts event. Planning is underway for an afternoon of music,poetry, and art by and for persons living with dementia. Our “On a Positive Note” chorus will sing and Wisconsin’s Poet Laureate, Karla Huston (who lives in Appleton) will participate.

Why am I telling you all of this? Obviously, I want you to know about the exciting arts events, but I also want to let you know that these events are backed by research showing their positive effects on people withdementia. For example, a paper by geriatric psychiatrist Gene Cohen and colleagues (2006) titled “The Impactof Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on the Physical Health, Mental Health, and Social Functioningof Older Adults” found that compared to those who just went about their ordinary daily activities, people who participated in a chorale (like our “On a Positive Note”) had better ratings of physical health, fewer doctorvisits, less medication use, fewer falls, better morale and less loneliness.

A study of nursing homes that engaged in weekly TimeSlips sessions with residents compared to those that presented regular activities showed that those in the TimeSlips facilities were more engaged and alert, interacted more with staff, and staff had more positive views of people with dementia (Fritsch et al., 2009).

Now, there’s a new study showing the benefits of painting for people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Theresearchers compared participants in an instructed painting session with persons in a noninstructed painting session. People in the latter group, actually spent more time painting! Over time, residents improved theirpainting, using more colors, more details, and a larger area of the paper. The authors concluded, “people withAD have a preserved capacity to paint, with and without instructions, even those in the later stages of the disease. The results also indicate than an artistic development is possible and that painting can be used andan appreciated and beneficial activity for people with AD” (Miller & Johansson, 2016, p. 1).

You can click on the link below to read the article and see the many paintings produced by the Swedish participants.

 

Miller, E., & Johansson, B. (2016). Capability to paint and Alzheimer’s disease: Relationship to disease stagesand instructions. Retrieved from : http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/2158244016631799

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