CREATIVE EXPRESSIONS, offered by  The Alzheimer Society in Ontario, is just one of
numerous programs the Society offers to support those walking the path of
dementia. The Society has many classes where people talk one to one or in small
groups. They educate one to one or in groups. They guide. Their counsellors are at the
ready to sensitively help. They follow through and provide services that they know are
needed by both those with some form of dementia as well as the caregivers. The
Alzheimer Society of Halton has been a steadying hand for me while I have been going
through the new ‘caregiver’ role.
One of the great programs offered by the Society is ‘Creative Expressions.’ Although many
‘art projects’ are introduced throughout the year, the program is not called an ‘Art Class,’
with good reason. There is no requirement for art talent, no focus on ability in respect
to what is commonly thought of as ‘artistic.’ We are not learning ‘art.’
Instead this program uses visual stimulus to activate brain functions by providing
opportunities to respond in group discussion. Creative Expressions allows each
participant to express about the creative topics of the class, to express creatively and to
make friends, to socialize, in a fear free environment. In many classes, those who arrive
at the class feeling they have inadequate background for an ‘art’ class, soon find that they
have had a beautiful experience, together with their loved one and with new friends.
These same folks often return to be part of a second and third class. Caregivers realize
this class is a beautiful way to give their loved one a social experience they enjoy while at
the same experiencing a positive ‘recharging’ of their own soul.
WHILE IT IS NOT AN ‘ART’ CLASS, the Creative Expressions program does use visual
stimulus. Pictures of various media projects, drawings, sculptures, paintings, collages,
cut-outs, by well known and unknown artists, are shown to the group and generate a safe
and open discussion. The Art Therapist leading the group merely asks, “What do you
think, how do you feel, about this picture?”
There are no right or wrong answers. Whatever someone feels at the moment about a
certain picture can be communicated, knowing everyone will accept what is said, without
judgment. Everyone can speak their thoughts in a safe group setting.
The goal of the discussion is to stimulate brain functions by providing opportunities to
respond to what is shown. Over and over again, it has been shown that each one sees
and talks about the same picture but has a completely different response, a different
feeling, that awakens their own life experiences to bring to the discussion, experiences
that might remain dormant without a safe environment.
In this particular ‘space,’ free of fear, where each one feels safe to speak because there is
respect among the group, each one usually chooses to answer. The ability to think seems
to slide through, in between, in and out of the plaques and tangles which otherwise would
have a hold on the brain functions involved in responding to ‘what do I think?’ Fear seems
to cause a ‘brain freeze’ during which many functions just can’t happen. In this class with
fear reduced, thoughts seem to come and be revealed more easily.
The social environment in a Creative Expression class has been fertile ground for growing
friendships among caregivers as well as loved ones with dementia. Generally, a relatively
small class of about 12-14 members, encourages sharing experiences and information
relevant to those in similar situations. Even though each one with dementia is at a
different place along the spectrum of the disease, most will face similar situations. Having
new friends to share those experiences with helps caregivers walk their own path more
confidently. Many lasting friendships were given birth in a Creative Expressions group.
IN A CLASS, FOR EXAMPLE, the first hour might be spent talking about Vincent Van Gogh
while looking at five or six of his paintings. Class members might comment on Van Gogh’s
style, his colours, his topics, and even his life as well as to his paintings and the artist’s
overall work and maybe life ….wherever the discussion goes. One of the paintings in the
above class might be of “Sunflowers” by Van Gogh. Observations of that painting would
be among comments in the discussion of this picture.
During the project period of that day’s class might be to draw flowers with a stem to put
in a vase, paper flowers for a paper vase on the wall. The art therapist leads the project
suggesting flowers can be any flowers that interests the creator, not necessarily sun
flowers. Many media and ‘tools’ are offered to create the flowers. Watercolours,
brushes, chalks, oil pastels, colour and carbon pencils, salt, scissors, sponges, paper
towels, and whatever the creators choose to use to portray his or her own flower that will
eventually join the other flowers in the ‘vase,’ on the wall.
When each artist declares his flower complete, he is asked to place his flower ‘in the vase’
on the wall. In some cases, the flowers don’t always get into the vase, but appear on the
vase, as the second image shown. But no one judges it right or wrong. It is the vase of
flowers offered by that class. And they all love it!! What a good feeling Creative
Expressions leaves with those who attend each week, creating a desire among those with
memory loss to return weekly. They look forward to coming back.
Thank You to our amazing Art Therapist, Brianna Kestle who is perfect for such a role, and
to the Alzheimer Society of Halton! Brianna brings her art talents, and skills plus her
caring personality to make a perfect fit for this unique and specialized role. We are so
fortunate she is with the Alzheimer’s Society of Halton and working with our loved ones
and our caregivers!

~From blog Notes from Aboard the Train of Thoughts,
page: Expressing Creatively, on,
Copyright © 2017 by Judy Allen Shone
~ Taken from Caregiving-Unmasked by J. Shone
COPYRIGHT © 2017 Judy Allen Shone All Rights Reserved.