BROOKS MUSEUM BRINGS ALZHEIMER’S ART-THERAPY PROGRAM TO MEMPHIS

Memphis, TN – The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art has brought a free interactive art-therapy program for those with Alzheimer’s to Memphis. The program, “Piece of Mind”, is modeled after the successful “Meet Me at MoMA,” created by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The Brooks is the first museum in Tennessee to have a program like this.

The Brooks offers the free tour and art project, sponsored by Baptist Memorial Health Care, for those in the early to middle-stages of Alzheimer’s and their caregivers every month. The program is interactive as attendees tour the museum and then complete their own art project led by art-therapist, Karen Peacock. There is also a theme-related discussion.

Repeat attendance is encouraged as the themes change monthly. The upcoming theme for October is Tiffany, November is Giving, and December is Eat, Drink, and Be Merry! Past discussions included family relationships, babies, and symbolism in artwork.

Studies and prior experiences show that the art projects in the program inspire conversation from the participant with Alzheimer’s. Vickie McConnell of Jackson, Tennessee brought her father to the program last year.

“The activities gave him a means to talk about topics from his long-ago past. Some of the stories he shared at the table were ones I had never heard him ever discuss. This program is geared for the dementia/Alzheimer patient, but I know that the caregivers (and loved ones of those patients) receive as much (if not more) from the program,” McConnell said.

The positive experience inspired McConnell to become a docent at the museum.

The Brooks’ has specially trained its staff and docents to interact with those with Alzheimer’s and give the “Piece of Mind” attendees a safe environment. The Brooks’ staff understands that many may be apprehensive about where they can take their loved one due to their illness. Andrew Sanders with the Alzheimer’s Association Mid South Chapter led the training.

“People should go to the ‘Piece of Mind’ exhibit because it helps the viewer understand that this therapy offers people with Alzheimer’s disease the opportunity for expression and communication through painting and drawing and can be particularly helpful to them who find it hard to express their thoughts and feelings verbally. This process helps people with the disease to establish intimate lives of themselves,” Sanders said.

There are 5.4 million people living in the United States with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. That means that every 69 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s. The estimated 2011 cost of Alzheimer’s is $183 billion and greatly affects government budgets. It also affects the family members and caretakers of those with Alzheimer’s. In 2010, there were 17 billion unpaid hours of care provided by family members and friends. It is estimated that 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s by 2050.

“Much of my father’s memory of his experiences during the sessions only lasted for a very short period of time, but the interaction that occurred between the two of us gave me a richer knowledge of my father. It made me appreciate his daily struggles with his dementia and it gave me a glimpse of his journey through this disease,” McConnell said.

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