Implementing Creative Arts in a Memory Care Environment

A person’s ability to reconnect with a past memory is rooted in the physiology of the brain. Research shows that to a large extent, Alzheimer’s disease spares the parts of the brain related to emotions, creativity and creative expression, and neurologists have begun to recognize the benefits creative projects can have among older people. Juniper Village is among the small number of nursing homes and care facilities where staff and residents alike embrace healing through the arts.

A program called Memories in the Making was launched in 1988 by the Alzheimer’s Association in Orange County, California. Through MIM, those who may have lost the ability to communicate verbally are able to express themselves through drawing and painting. Volunteers help people with dementia – some of whom may have never picked up a paint brush – enjoy social interaction and boost their self-esteem while opening the channels of communication with loved ones.

One Juniper Village family member said of her father, “He is thriving through this experience, and that is not a term (we) often used.”

Juniper Village at Aurora’s Michelle Audet, Connections Director, said, “What I’ve seen is residents painting who have never painted a day in their life. When I share their loved one’s artwork with their families, they are absolutely amazed at their paintings, and tear up. A brother of one of our residents recently asked me if his brother gets agitated when he paints. I said no, just the opposite – he is very calm and appears to enjoy putting paint to paper.”

Caregivers report that Memories in the Making artists feel a real sense of accomplishment and achievement, and that often they draw or paint something that reconnects them to a memory. The drawings and paintings created become powerful tools that reassure family and caregivers that the essence of these individuals is still there. In a way, the art becomes that person’s voice.

Juniper Communities is proud to be a part of the Memories in the Making program through the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org). Visit www.junipercommunities.com to learn more about our communities and creative arts programming.


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