Memories in the Making®, Alzheimer’s Association A fine arts program for people with dementia
Memories in the Making (MIM) was introduced in 1988 and is a signature art program of the Alzheimer’s Association Orange County Chapter. It is a unique program allowing persons with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia to express themselves through art.
MIM can benefit each participant in the following ways: • improves self-esteem • serves as an outlet for emotions • increases attention span and focus • activates neurons • reduces isolation and provides opportunity to socialize • taps in pockets of memories that still exist • reconnects families
Dementias and the loss of language does not mean the desire to express oneself is less. One does not cease to exist just because one can no longer remember the past few decades of his life.
Through the creative process of painting, these individuals speak to us, offering us the essence of themselves. In viewing the art, the families, caregivers and public are often very touched by the tangible evidence of what remains of the individual even after the disease has robbed them of so much.
History of the Program
Memories in the Making® Art Program was established in 1988 by art enthusiast, Selly Jenny, and art teacher, Marilyn Oropeza. When Selly’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease Selly became disheartened by the lack of meaningful activities for those who suffered from memory loss. A painter, Jenny thought of art. Perhaps Alzheimer’s patients could say something to loved ones if their tools were paint and paper, rather than that highly structured and organized thing called speech. Jenny’s hunch about art and Alzheimer’s was more than right. Even Alzheimer’s patients deep into the disease and already living in care facilities filled their canvases with bright colors, fuzzy but pleasant scenes of long forgotten vacations, honeymoons, and childhoods. In addition, Jenny and Marilyn identified the importance of venerating the artist, by celebrating the artwork they produced at art shows. Since its establishment, the program has shown tremendous growth as the facilitators involved with the program continuously strive to create a warm environment for individuals who suffer from memory loss.
“The therapeutic value of art has led me to search for a practical application. Specifically it is my interest to apply the creative process with individuals experiencing minimal communication abilities, often as the result of illness. It is my observation that individuals who are given a way of expressing their feelings experience lessen anxiety and have a greater peace of mind.” LaDoris Heinly, MSW
LaDoris “Sam” Heinly, MSW, was instrumental in managing and growing the Memories in the Making® Program since joining the Alzheimer’s Association, Orange County Chapter in 1998. Over the 15 year span of her involvement some of her major accomplishments were authorship of “I’m Still Here” and “The Memories in the Making® Training Manual.” In addition, she developed a training module with the purpose of training art facilitators in the Memories in the Making® Program which she presented both nationally and internationally. She was a sought after speaker for the program and was able to generate interest which led to the tremendous growth of the program. Her passion, warmth, and knowledge was contagious as she graciously went about the business of ensuring that the program’s benefits would reach as many people as possible. This was her mission and life fervency. In Sam’s own words, “The therapeutic value of art has led me to search for a practical application. Specifically it is my interest to apply the creative process with individuals experiencing minimal communication abilities, often as the result of illness. It is my observation that individuals who are given a way of expressing their feelings experience lessen anxiety and have a greater peace of mind.”