January is Alzheimer’s month. It is easy to find many concerning statistics about increasing rates of dementia and the toll it takes, but this month is meant to be about hope – new supports and options for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, for their loved ones and caregivers, and for some of the hopeful ways of managing and slowing the progress of the disease. Dementia cannot be cured (yet) but there are many things that can help.
I am very proud to have been part of an innovative pilot project called Artful Moments, which was a partnership between the Art Gallery of Hamilton and St. Peter’s Hospital. We created an arts-based programme for persons with dementia who were residents of SPH that involved art appreciation conversations, gallery tours and hands-on art-making. I cannot say enough about how much I enjoyed the programme, and the experiences I shared with our participants and their family members will stay with me. I learned a lot of things that will inform my work well beyond this project too.
Our focus is quality of life in the moment. The experience must be positive and engaging as it is happening.
Our activities aim to engage the participant and the caregiver. Each experience is a shared moment, a chance to connect together in a positive way that puts the diagnosis aside.
Our programme is all about the experience and the process, not the final results. There is pleasure in looking at art, in moving a paintbrush around a canvas, in selecting colours and shapes of fabric to make an artistic work.
Every person involved must have a voice and be welcomed to express themselves. This is sometimes as subtle as a nod or smile, a whisper or sound. Encouragement, acknowledgement and welcome are essential.
The learning and experience is not one-way. I have learned so much, and see things so differently now because of the people I met.
I look forward to new programmes and opportunities, and am pleased to leave you with this short video of our programme. I get chills every time I watch it.