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Aug. 09, 2012

Brushing Aside Alzheimer's

by Annette Heist

Click to enlarge images
Click on icon in upper right corner of slideshow to enlarge images
Memory loss is one of the most common symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. But the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's do more than cloud the past. Many people with the disease also have anxiety, and may feel depressed and socially isolated. 
 
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Those symptoms may be associated with dementia, but they're not caused by it, according to Sean Caulfield, creative director and co-founder of the group ARTZ: Artists for Alzheimer's.
 
"They're a result of the environment not accommodating what's happening in the brains of people with the disease," Caulfield says. Painting, he adds, can help alleviate some of those symptoms.
 
To help get creative juices flowing, ARTZ links up artist volunteers and people with Alzheimer's in a relaxed setting with lots of art supplies: brushes and paints, or for those who might have trouble holding a brush, sponges and pipe cleaners.
 
Caulfield says the program helps participants living in nursing homes and other care facilities feel connected to the outside world, and less like "patients" or "sufferers" -- terms, he says, that make people feel helpless and isolated.

"When we engage people and bring them back into the community, that‘s a treatment. It’s holistic care. Our program shows that people can cope better with their symptoms," Caulfield says.

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To see some of the images created by ARTZ program participants, click on the slide show above. These images will be part of an exhibition in Boston this October. Check the ARTZ website for more information.
 
The Hilgos Foundation also supports using creative arts to help people with Alzheimer's. (The foundation was named for the artist Hilda Gorenstein, or "Hilgos," who suffered severe memory problems in her later life.  See painting, above right.) They're one of the sponsors of the documentary film "I Remember Better When I Paint."  The trailer is below.
 
About Annette Heist

Annette Heist is a former senior producer for Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

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