Buried Memories Flow Through Paint Brushes for Dementia Patients
MORTON GROVE CHAMPION (April 22, 2014) - On a cold spring morning at a dementia care facility in Morton Grove, a group of patients wander into a sunny makeshift art studio to bring once-forgotten memories to life.
The result is almost like magic, when the dozen or so residents at Silverado Orchard Park in Morton Grove let their memories flow wordlessly — using only their paint brushes.
Art is widely-used as a tool to enrich the lives of people with dementia, because the creative outlet helps people access emotions, thoughts and memories.
A few miles away at the Highland Park and Lake Zurich Silverado locations, art is helping Alzheimer’s patients take on a new sense of purpose by expressing their emotions without the use of words.
Besides benefitting themselves, the painting groups at the three Silverado locations are also using art to help other dementia patients. A charity auction of their art Thursday will support the Greater Illinois Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. More than 30 original paintings created by artists at the three local Silverado communities are scheduled to be sold during the Wine & Watercolors Mixer and Silent Auction.
The event, which is free and open to the public from 4 to 7 p.m. at Silverado Orchard Park, is expected to draw more than 100 people and raise several thousand dollars for Alzheimer’s care, according to Samantha Johnson, administrator at Silverado Orchard Park.
At Silverado Highland Park, one patient who has lost the ability to speak has replaced her voice with a paintbrush, which she uses to express her emotions and thoughts, said Silverado Highland Park Administrator Sarah Sanderman.
“It gives our residents the opportunity to focus their energy on an activity that helps them convey their feelings,” Sanderman said. “They also take great pride in knowing that their paintings are benefiting a good cause.”
Besides serving as a creative outlet for seniors to express their emotions, the classes seem to provide some respite to the patients by reducing anxiety and creating a feeling of connection.
“Some of them never even knew they were artists until they picked up a paintbrush,” Johnson said. “We look at some of their works and we can’t believe it’s their first time painting.”
The therapeutic vibe of the art studio echoes everywhere at Silverado Orchard Park in Morton Grove, where well-mannered cats and dogs walk freely around hallways set to soothing jazz music.
Like most other places in the Silverado buildings, the painting group meetings are relatively quiet, as art therapists who lead the groups give few directions in order to let the residents express themselves freely.
Art therapist Samantha Kanelstein leads the twice-a-month sessions at Silverado Orchard Park in Morton Grove.
Kanelstein isn’t there to teach, but she gives the residents a positive boost to motivate them to keep going if they get stumped or become discouraged.
At Silverado Lake Zurich, residents are given direction based on their individual ability level, with some artists needing help choosing a paint color and others getting help with guiding the brush across the canvas.
“The work they’re capable of is incredible,” said Diana Iacobucci, administrator at Silverado Lake Zurich. “It’s magical and uplifting to see them express their emotions on paper in a beautiful way.”
The Wine and Watercolors event will include hors d’oeuvres and refreshments, and all money collected from the sale of the paintings will be donated in the artists’ names to the Alzheimer’s Foundation.
“Many of our residents have participated in non-profit organizations during their lives, and we are reconnecting them with something that has always mattered to them,” Johnson said. “We’re hoping for a good turnout.”
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