Sunday, April 3, 2011

Hand Over Hand

Last week I taught a Memories in the Making Basic Training class for the Alzheimer's Association. Staff from the Care Communities and volunteers interested in helping with the program attended to learn more about how people with dementia can use art as an outlet for creative expression and as a way to connect with memories from their past.

Part of the day was spent introducing watercolor and some of the techniques that can be used in a Memories in the Making session. Traditional arts and crafts activities have all the residents producing the same finished product but with MIM the focus is on encouraging each individual's own creative process as a way to communicate who they are and their rich histories.

As part of the Memories in the Making training the participants role play the part of the facilitator and the resident artist. Dementia can affect the artist's ability to remember how to hold a brush, what the brush is for or how to get started with the painting. Here the facilitator is using the hand over hand technique to guide the artist through the process of holding the brush, dipping it in the water, getting paint on the brush and then placing the brush on the paper. Once the artist's brush touches the paper the facilitator removes their hand to allow the resident the freedom to paint as they wish. The facilitators are there to encourage and suggest but are NEVER to paint for the artists. The paintings are to be an expression of the artists and who they are - no one else.

This is a painting that was created by an artist with dementia. The role of the facilitator was to provide pictures or objects for inspiration and to give support and encouragemnt when needed. Because the artist had very shaky hands they were given a sea sponge to paint with instead of a brush to make it easier for them to hold and apply the paint. This is a wonderful example of the kind of individual help the facilitators give the artists with the Memoreis in the Making program.

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