Art helps anxious dementia patients

LISA KNIGHT
Last updated 12:00 09/08/2014
margaret anderson
GRANT MATTHEW/Fairfax NZ

ART SUPPORT: Margaret Anderson and Alzheimers Manawatu manager Donna Hedley are intent on their work at the group’s new Arts Explosion class.

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A calm and fun place where they can just be themselves is how people with dementia describe the new Arts Explosion group.

In only its first month, the weekly programme, facilitated by Alzheimers Manawatu, is an art class for people with dementia that aims to provide a non-pharmaceutical approach to alleviate anxiety and confusion.

Alzheimers Manawatu art facilitator Alison Cleaver said the class was to help the group connect with their creativity and to socialise.

"Art allows them to use their memory and tap into their memories because some of them may have been quite good artists in the past," she said. "It's also quite calming, they can really relax into it so it's a nice space to be in."

The group completes a different project each week, such as painting, drawing, marble art and scrapbooking, Cleaver said.

Barbara Smith attends the class every week and said it had brought back her love of art. "I did paint about 20 years ago and I really did enjoy it," she said.

"If I hadn't gone to the [Marion Kennedy] centre I wouldn't have known I love art. The day I picked up a paintbrush again I got really excited. I just lose myself in painting and think why did I ever stop?"

Smith said she enjoyed the company of the others at the class.

"It's a place I can come where nobody asks me to do things I can't or asks me to remember things I can't. We can just be ourselves. It's not what you take home on paper, it's the sense of being here that you take away."

Margaret Anderson said the art class and other groups held at the Marion Kennedy Centre provided a place where she could be herself.

"I've never done anything like this before, there's no pressures and they're a lovely bunch of people."

With so many different projects in the art class, the reaction of each patient was special, Cleaver said.

"I enjoy seeing the smiles on their faces when they see what they've achieved. Their faces light up and it's really nice. Often they don't remember what they've done until they see it again and to me that's lovely, it really feeds the soul."

Alzheimers Manawatu recently held its annual appeal and for the first time raised more than $10,000.

Manager Donna Hedley said the support for the street appeal had been fantastic. The money raised would stay in the region, which covers from Dannevirke to Otaki.

Alzheimers Manawatu will also hold its first memory walk next month, with actor Shane Cortese attending the walk to The Square.

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- Manawatu Standard

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