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I'm Still Here
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People say that art “speaks” to them. It speaks to their soul in a way words do not. When words fail, a work of art can tell a story, express an emotion, recreate a memory and serve as a vehicle of expression. Art allows for validation of feelings and a way to communicate with each other.
The art activity described in the book uses a variety of media appropriate for frail elderly persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. It taps into the universal language of art in a unique way, elevating the quality of life for people suffering from dementia and allowing them to express thoughts, feelings and emotions. When words escape us, art allows the individuals an additional way to process feelings and express them.
This art method differs from Art Therapy in that it makes no attempt to interpret the art. The artist is asked to “tell me about your art.” Artists are encouraged to give their artwork a title. All descriptive information comes from the artist. The art facilitator’s job is to listen and to validate feelings. The power of this art process relies primarily on a decreased ability of the artist to censor symbols of expression in art and the reality that art expression reflects what is currently going on inside the mind.
The concept is both simple and complex. Through this book, it is the author’s intention to communicate the concept so that it can be easily understood and replicated to enhance lives and bring dignity to many people. The information contained in the book is the result of many years of experience working with hundreds of individuals with dementia. That experience, combined with lessons learned in training and in collaboration with art facilitators in the field, has resulted in this unique resource.
The story behind the book cover
3_rsAt the age of 67, Alan was young to be so advanced in the disease. Routinely placed in the art class by the staff, Alan stared vacantly and remained in one position until assisted to move. Week after week paintbrushes were made available, even loaded with paint and placed between his fingers with not a word of acknowledgment or recognition.
On this particular day the art facilitator replaced the unused paintbrush with a marking pen, similar to that used by draftsmen or architects. Moving away to assist others she returned moments later and discovered markings in the center of the usually blank paper. Three letter ‘Rs’ with circles around them. Knowing this was important, but having no way to communicate with Alan, the art was given to the care facility administrator with the request that family be consulted. Within a week there was an excited telephone call explaining that this is the way Alan always wrote their mother’s name. Through his confusion, the need to communicate was still important to Alan. Alan’s wife, Ruth, was on his mind and he wrote her name in his familiar way on his paper.
Exhausted daughters had been visiting regularly the care facility where their dad lived, only to leave after a few minutes, unrecognized and shaken with despair. After viewing the art, family re-evaluated a recent decision to discontinue visiting Dad. The art confirmed that their dad was still there with many emotions still trapped inside.

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