Memories in the Making Caregivers at Home: A Meaningful Activity for Persons with Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 Helpline has fielded several calls from caregivers who are struggling to find meaningful activities for their loved one.  Memories in the Making® is an ideal activity because it can be enjoyed by people with dementia in the early, moderate and late stages of the disease process and can be adapted to each person’s abilities.  The use of collage, painting and drawing with different mediums provides an excellent opportunity for the caregiver and their loved one to open the lines of communication and enjoy each other’s company.  It is also an excellent intergenerational activity that can be enjoyed with children and grandchildren. The article below will give you some helpful tips on how to get started.IMG_4494red

Memories in the Making is a program in which persons with dementia are encouraged to express themselves through art. The program is most often considered a group activity and it is usually conducted in care communities and adult activity centers. However, it is also very effective on a one-on-one basis either at home, or when family members visit their loved one in a care community.  Here is just one success story:

My husband and I frequently visited his mother at an Alzheimer’s care facility.  Like many families, we found these visits taxing because my mother-in-law’s decline was hard to accept and she was at the stage in the disease that made ongoing conversation virtually impossible. The visits were particularly difficult for my husband, a man who was usually able to fix the problem, but was unable to fix Alzheimer’s disease.  Spending time with the stranger that his mother had become was troubling, but not visiting was out of the question.

One day I decided to bring watercolor paints, brushes and paper.  We found a quiet area in the facility and started painting, seating mom between us.   We did not announce that we were going to paint and we did not ask if she wanted to join us, we just began.  In no time we were giggling and sharing our art. She had painted as a hobby earlier in her life and she participated that day at a level we had not anticipated.  I think there was actually a little humming at the table from time to time. Mom didn’t have the words, and I do not know how much she understood, but she was actively engaged in what we were all doing, smiling and interested in our creations.  I believe secretly each of us was grateful for the diversion of the paints and to not feel the pressure of making empty conversation.  Mostly, I believe what was occurring was that we had no expectations for the visit.  We were just three people playing with paints and brushes.  We were in the moment and enjoying that instant.  In retrospect that day was one of our best visits and a time that stands out in both our memories.” La Doris “Sam” Heinly, Alzheimer’s Association Orange County

For more information please contact Brianne Ellsworth, Alzheimer’s Orange County, Memories in the Making Coordinator, at 949.955.9000.