Thursday, December 15, 2011

Appreciating every minute

The patients enjoyed the "holiday collages" we did last time so much, 
that yesterday we brought in cardboard stars for them to decorate 
and put on the tree. 
 It was a big group and rather chaotic 
but (mostly) everyone had a great time. 

As I left yesterday, I couldn't help feeling overwhelmingly sad. 
For most of them, 
the holiday will come and go and they won't even know. 
I am so grateful to have this opportunity to work with these folks.
It makes me appreciate every minute of my very full life! 

Happy Holidays 
to everyone out there 
who has an Alzheimer patient in their lives. 
May God Bless you! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Christmas Collages

"Collages" come up often in the many articles I read,
as valuable projects for Alzheimer patients. 
So today, we cut out small "holiday related" images and words 
from food and living magazines.
 Judith brought in some wonderful green tree shapes, lace, red balls,  
sheets of music, and paper that looked like packages!  

We gave each of them white paper, a glue stick and a box of "stuff".
As always, it was tough going at first.
"Why are we doing this?" "What is this supposed to be?"

Once they got started though, we had a great time 
talking about "everything holiday!"

This gal discovered the red and green markers I had on the table 
and enjoyed outlining her trees.
(The cat showed up at at the last minute) 

Peggi happily did three of these 
and told us this was her favorite because of the heart. 
Ron, reluctant about doing anything "artistic" at first,
gets right into it now.
It helps that his lovely wife comes in and encourages him.
Her enthusiasm rubs off on everyone!
Jane comes every week.
She is in a wheel chair and has very limited motor skills.
She has the sweetest smile and is just so happy to be there.
Various people "helped" her with this while she was sleeping. 

Here are some more great examples of what they came up with! 


The food images were very popular! 

The the most important thing I am learning is that  
it doesn't matter what "activity" they do.
(or if they even "get" it!) 
It's the coming together
and sharing a few moments together that counts. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The "Right" Projects

The patients who come to the "art class" 
are at all different stages of Alzheimer's.
It's difficult to come up with projects that are suitable for everyone. 
The "stained glass" project was very popular a few weeks ago, 
so we thought we'd try it again. 

Joe gets very upset when he "accidentally" goes out of the lines. 
He got so frustrated he stopped working. 
(He has little to no motor control in his hands.) 
This is not a good project for him. 

Barbara, on the other hand, was perfectly happy doing this, 
once she got started. 
She "gets stuck" remembering what color she is using,
but enjoys putting it on the paper.  

 Ronald started this in the lower right  
then stopped and said he's rather paint the American Flag 
on the wall in front of him. 
Now that's creative! 
I love this! 

This is from Jeanne. 
The sweet woman who comes in on her own, all dressed up. 
She drew this and colored it in herself. 
She told me she was thinking about church. 

I just love this. 
It took a whole lot of effort for Mary Lou to do this.
She was SO pleased with it at the end, 
it was all worth it!  

No matter the results, the gathering together to create something, 
is what is important here.  

Please feel free to send along any ideas you may have 
for simple projects that you think may work! 
I'm all ears! 
e-mail me at:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Back to Basics

I introduced one of my favorite projects today.
I brought in postcards (show announcements from galleries) 
with images of landscape paintings for them to copy. 

I pencilled in the shapes for Frances,
then she took off. 

Ruth came in all upset and told me she couldn't stay 
because she was going to the movies. 
With a little prodding, she settled down and did this! 

Alice told me she couldn't paint because she wasn't any good at it. 
I think she's got that wrong! 

Doris spent the whole hour on this, 
and it was a struggle for her. 

"What you are giving them is such a gift: 
respite from such a confining and frustrating disease."

I received that from a friend who has discovered this blog. 
It reminds me why I do this!  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just "Coloring In"

Up until now, I've been trying to avoid projects that are "just coloring in".
I was taught in college that it stifles creativity 
because "there is no thinking required."

I'm coming to the realization that "coloring in"
may just offer the comfort zone these folks meed! 
Today, I printed coloring pages of "leaves"
and brought in some pressed leaves 
from my yard for them to reference.  

It was the first time since I've started this journey,
that I felt like every patient, no matter what stage they are in, 
got engaged and seemed happy.

Marion complained the whole time,
as she managed to paint this
beautiful watercolor version! 

Eleanor clearly likes this color!
And was so happy doing this.

Jean is the highly functional gal who comes in on her own,
all dressed up and just works quietly the whole time.
She told me that Fall reminds her of Niagara Falls.

Millie can barely see, let alone hold a brush.
And blue is her favorite color.

Frances got so bored with the "coloring in"
that she drew her own! 

I call Ruth "speedy"because she blows through whatever I give her in minutes. 
Then she waits for a challenge. 
I drew these pumpkins for her and told her to draw in the face.
Funny thing is:
That pumpkin looks just like her!
Other news: I'm going to an event in Boston next week put on by 
where I hope to meet some folks with Artz for Alzheimers.
Some art work by patients will be featured. 
I'll keep you posted! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"House" as a subject

As the class arrives, it's always a bit hectic and upsetting, 
as most of the patients are confused and agitated at first. 
It still amazes me how quickly they calm down 
the minute they start painting!   

"A house" is such a basic shape, yet it can evoke all kinds of emotions. 
I thought it would be interesting to give the class a simple outline, 
then let them add what they wanted.

Anita added the white curtains and the "candle light" behind them.
And the wreaths! (Even the ones in the bushes.)
I love that she drew in the bricks on the chimney and the front step. 

Check out the mid-century modern front door!

This woman is more highly functioning than the rest of the group.
She added the thatched roofs and stone walls.
She told me she couldn't remember the name of the village 
she visited in Ireland where the houses look like this.  
(As I was leaving, I saw the gal at the front desk googling it for her!) 
I love that! 

We'd talked about all different kinds of houses:
antiques, Capes, contemporary, cottages, cabins,
barns, even birdhouses!  

Joe is in a wheel chair and is barely able to communicate.
He said this was a lot like his cabin.
A real stickler for accuracy, 
he was concerned that the roof was blue. 
I told him it was just reflecting the sky. 

Today I experienced what I guess is the only down side of doing this. 
I was told one of the "sisters" passed away over the weekend.
(click here to see a previous post about them) 

This is the painting she did just last week. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Found a Winner!

I'd been struggling to come up with a project for class today, 
when I got an e-mail from Judy, the wonderful woman who assists me.
She suggested we have the class draw random lines on the paper,
then fill in the resulting shapes with different colors. 
This is the sample she did. 
This project was a real winner! 
Every one could do some version of it
and it allowed them to express something! 
I'm thrilled to show you these results.

This woman always shows up early, all dressed up,
(even color co-ordinated!)
She is so enthusiastic and enjoys every minute.
This project was right up her ally!
(she drew her own lines)
A new student, rather worried at first.
An Aid drew those lines for her, then she did the rest!

Another "newbie" who drew this all on her own!
Then colored it in.
She told me it was a birthday party.  
Ann, in a wheel chair, is a regular and clearly loves coming to this class.
She worked on this the whole hour .
So what that she didn't "follow the rules!"
I love this!
This is from Joe, also in a wheelchair and very impaired.
He worked really hard at this,
 but Bill across the table kept badgering him.
Bill, who refused to do anything,  "used to be an art teacher"
and kept telling him he wasn't "following the rules!"  

As the class was unraveling
 (which happens almost always within one hour)
I saw these two new pieces!
and was stunned!
 The best thing about this project
is how "freeing" it is! 
For everyone!   

*"I keep forgetting how limited we are in this endeavor, 
given the varying degrees of mental and physical 
compromises we are dealing with! 
We're just providing them with a much needed creative outlet. 
A place for them to get "lost" in the "making" of something. 
That's all."
*(My email back to Judith)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Interpreting Fine Art vs. "Coloring In"

My good friend
and amazing artist 
 produced a small calendar last year 
with images of her work on each page. 
Her paintings are very soothing, quiet landscapes and seascapes
with soft colors and subtle value changes. 
I thought the patients would respond well to them, so    
I gave each of them an image to "copy".
A much bigger challenge than just coloring in the lines
of objects that I've given them before.
This "regular" got right to work
and was delighted!  

They all struggled with this at first, but as usual,
once they got going
the results were amazing!

This woman worked very hard on this.
What a wonderful interpretation! 
Again, another valiant attempt! 
We had a smaller (and much quieter) group today 
so this project was just perfect. 
(Two of the gals were so relaxed they fell asleep!)

If anyone who reads this blog has any ideas for projects,
I'm all ears.
I'll try anything!  

PS. I asked Ann for permission to use her images ahead of time.
Always a good idea.