A picture may be worth a thousand words but, as our residents have discovered, they also unlock countless memories.
The home’s Activities Coordinator, Pauline Delpolio, explained. “When you are working with people who have dementia, you want to stimulate their memories. It not only helps them to retain memories, but it also helps by maintaining a wide vocabulary and language skills and it enables us to learn more about the person and their life experiences – in short, the things that have made them who they are.
Pauline noticed that art sessions really stimulated conversations and memories. She said: “We have a very active arts and crafts programme and we enjoy regular visits from artist Lynne D Jones, who works with the residents. It is fascinating to see how residents respond to the different subjects that Lynne examines.”
Lynne, who is a professional artist, uses different themes and objects when she runs her workshops with the residents. She recalls one particular session that fired the residents’ creativity and memories.
Lynne said: “The objects were a cup and saucer and a slice of sandwich cake. Within minutes, the room was buzzing as everyone started talking about favourite recipes. One lady remembered how her mother had used orange squash to mix the icing instead of water. There was lots of talk about rationing and how they had no real eggs to make cake with during the war. It was wonderful to hear all their stories around food and celebration – all sorts of things that are triggered by the sight of a slice of cake and a cup of tea.”
Lynne says that painting and drawing is a liberating experience for many people. For those whose language skills are diminishing, it is an outlet for their thoughts, feelings and ideas and for others it is relaxing to concentrate on creating something. She said: “I agree with the residents; just colouring in can be very calming for anyone - it is a peaceful activity.”
For those whose fine motor skills have weakened, the sessions are still fun. Lynne said: “They join in with the reminiscing and, if they want to, they can direct me and Pauline to draw for them.”
Lynne speaks very highly of Pauline and her team. She said: “The team at Catherine Court are doing wonderful things with art. They are creative and they use their own and the residents’ work to decorate the home in a way that again stimulates the residents into talking about their memories.”
Lynne is particularly fond of the Catherine Court all-weather flowers. She said: “Residents and the coordinators make beautiful, colourful pictures of flowers. The coordinators then laminate the flowers, attach them to garden canes, like stems, and put them in the garden so, whatever the weather, the garden is a riot of colour.”
Pauline said: “It is so rewarding to see people coming to life when they are taking part in the sessions and when they look at the artwork on the walls and in the garden – you can’t help but smile. And that has to be the best therapy of all.”