Two Williamsport Home residents recently were honored at an artist's reception for their work in the Alzheimer's Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania "Memories in the Making" program.
Phyllis Griess and Dominic Santalucia were among 20 residents at the facility to participate in the program, which began in California in 1988 and, according to Donald Pote, executive director of the Williamsport Home, now is making its way to the East Coast.
He said the Alzheimer's Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania provided a training seminar funded by a grant from the Maslow Family Foundation. Two staff members attended to learn more about Memories in the Making from a person who served as the coordinator in California.
RALPH WILSON/Sun-Gazette Correspondent
Donald S. Pote, executive director of the Williamsport Home, and Estella Parker-Killian, regional director of the Alzheimer’s Association, applaud artists involved with the Memories in the Making art project during a reception Jan. 30 at the Williamsport Home.
Angel C. Duncan worked with MIM programs in California before moving to Madison, N.J. Pote said she lead representatives from nursing homes, personal care facilities, continuing care retirement communites and home- and community-based programs through the stages of implementing a Memories in the Making program.
Rote said the intervention program, along with others designed to stimulate the mind through active participation and expression, can be offered to engage an individual with dementia.
"Studies have shown art expresses and reflects what is going on inside of the mind," Pote said. "It allows individuals suffering from dementia to express thoughts, feelings and emotions through painting with watercolor that they often do not have the opportunity to express. Our activity director, Becky Woodring, calls it 'creative reminisce.' "
According to information provided by Pote, "the process of creating art encourages storytelling."
"Patient and compassionate art facilitators encourage communication by applying basic validation principals and established art techniques learned in the Memories in the Making art training program," information stated. "Additionally, families express familiarity with many of the stories and are encouraged that their loved one is still here and able to connect on some level."
Supplied with watercolors, paint brushes and watercolor paper, the process begins with a picture, such as of a beach. Participants then are asked to paint a scene they recall of a happy time at the beach with friends and family.
"We asked what is so special about that particular moment and how they felt," Pote said. "Sometimes we may have to break down the picture at the beach and get the person to talk through their experiences. Each person is usually at a different level and requires different approaches and encouragement. Our goal is to capture what they find special about their moment and get them to talk about those experiences."
Although numerous sessions were held to get the residents used to painting with watercolors and to stimulate their minds, a finished product was completed during one session.
"Residents (feel) good about remembering and sharing a fond moment from their past life, which they enjoyed or that which brought them pleasure with a fond memory, and the surprise that they could express that moment in a painting," Pote said. "One of the artists expressed 'I painted this?' with a proud smile."
Pote said he was impressed with the finished masterpieces.
"Each artwork is unique and an expression of a resident's experience," he said.
Participation is less about the finished artwork and more about the process of creation and the pleasure that can come from expressing their innermost feelings and thoughts, according to Dolores Johnson, administrative assistant.
The artist's reception held Jan. 30 helped celebrate the memories of the artists.
With 40 residents, family members and guests from the community, Griess, 85, and Santalucia, 80, each received their original artwork, framed and matted.
Griess's artwork was chosen by the NEPA Alzheimer's Association to be included in a Memories in the Making calendar, which includes prints of the paintings of residents from Northeastern and Northcentral Pennsylvania. Her painting, called "Animal Collage," shares her love of animals with a bright rainbow of colors.
"I just love to paint," she told the Alzheimer's Association. "All my life I've enjoyed dogs, music, arts, crafts and outside critters."
"This was the inaugural year of producing this calendar in Pennsylvania," Pote said.
Santalucia's work will be included on notecards made by the association. According to the notecard, " 'Dom' loves to talk about deep-sea fishing" and the outdoors. His painting, "The Big One" shows a fish in a sea of deep blue.
"They and their family members were surprised (and) proud, but also appreciative that their family members were able to participate in this program, feel good about the work they did and be recognized for this accomplishment," Pote said. "We are just honored and proud that two of our residents were chosen to be recognized."
Estella Parker Killian, regional director for the NEPA Alheimer's Association, and Clay Jacobs, outreach coordinator, both attended the reception. After Jacobs provided educational information about Alzheimer's disease, the artists also received copies of the Memories in the Making calender and notecards. Other original artwork prints from Northwestern Pennsylvania also were viewed and recognized.
For more information about the Memories in the Making program, or to see or buy a copy of the calendar or notecards, visit www.alz.org/oc/in-my-community-10849.asp.
To reach the Alzheimer's Association, call 800-272-3900.