By Nicole Columbo
Art was the tool that created lasting memories of spending time with my Grandma Audrey, who had Alzheimer’s disease. I treasure those memories and shared experiences today. I have been involved with promoting Alzheimer’s awareness for a few years and one day it clicked: if I have these precious memories with my grandmother, why shouldn’t everyone who is experiencing a loved one with Alzheimer’s?
Oftentimes, family members and caregivers are bogged down with the uncertainty of this disease and the stress of providing a safe environment for those who have it. It can be easy to let days or weeks slide by without a shared laugh or positive experience. Art is the resource for opening the lines of communication and offering a few minutes of relief.
Studies have shown the mental health benefits of participating in art therapy. It can help relieve stress and anxiousness by providing a focal point for those with Alzheimer’s. The key to participating in an art project with someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia is to keep it abstract, as you don’t want to overwhelm your loved one by giving them a task of drawing or painting something specific. Watercolors, projects with air-dry clay, and using sticker embellishments are all highly recommended. When you complete a project with your loved one, you are left with lasting physical evidence of a shared experience.
Knowing the benefits of art therapy, and also keeping in mind the memories I have with my grandma Audrey, I was inspired to create a campaign called Make Memories Matter. The facet of this campaign that I’m most passionate about is encouraging art therapy as a way to create lasting and positive experiences between caregivers and their loved ones.
I have created social sites on Facebook and YouTube, as well as a newly developed app, to serve as a resource for caregivers when participating in art projects at home. Each project that is featured has been carefully selected specifically for those with Alzheimer’s disease. And, all art projects have been tested at memory care facilities to see the responsiveness. For video tutorials on art projects and communication tips to use for when you’re doing an activity with your loved one who has Alzheimer’s, visit www.facebook.com/mmmalz or download our free app on iTunes or Google Play by searching for “Make Memories Matter.”