Go Painting


A while back I went to a conference and heard Dr. Daniel Potts, a Neurologist, speak. Not only is he a neurologist, he was also caregiver to his father, Lester, who had Alzheimer’s disease. Lester has since passed away, but before he did, he was involved with a day program where he began painting for the first time in his life. And, much to everyone’s surprise, he was actually quite good! There is lots of research going on in the field as to why many people with dementia discover hidden artistic talents. But even without knowing why, we know that the act of creating art can be very therapeutic for those with memory loss. You can read more about Dr. Potts and his father, Lester, here.

However, I know that many of us caregivers aren’t artists ourselves and perhaps we don’t have access to day programs that offer art therapy. So, it’s up to us to find other opportunities to encourage artistic expression, and I think I may have found a place that can help. Over the holiday I went to a painting party at a place called “Painting with a Twist”. They have franchises all over the U.S., and it’s essentially painting by numbers, but in a very fun and adult-feeling setting. I think this would be a perfect way to get someone with mild memory loss interested in art. Is it really art therapy? Probably not, because an art therapist would probably want you to paint your own picture by scratch to fully express yourself, but hey, it’s a start. And you get to pick your picture and your colors, so that leaves some room for individuality.

Of course, I don’t expect that everyone who reads this is going to have this franchise near them, but stores like Michael’s sell paint-by-number kits geared towards adults or you can find un-finished ceramic pieces and paint those as well (this was a HUGE hit at the assisted living where I used to work). Painting at home might be easier for those in the more moderate stages of the disease, since they won’t be distracted by other patrons, loud noises, can take lots of breaks, etc. However, be sure to paint with them to help them remember the task. You may even work on a piece together, which might help facilitate dialogue. Whatever you decide, be sure to focus on the process, not the end result. This is supposed to be fun, not stressful!

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