Week 7: Let’s Get Paint Where We Ain’t

Hello friends!

This past week, I began the second half of my final rotation of OT school (right at this moment, there is 1 month, 6 days, 14 hours and 39 minutes between my degree and I–we have reached the final stretch!) I am now doing two days of patient care to start the week out, and ending the week with the Memories in the Making painting program, sensory program development and caregiver education! It has been really great to have a variety of things to do and it has been equally great to learn about alternative, non-pharmacological ways to treat individuals who are at times, aggressive or combative, apathetic or lethargic etc. Understanding that many of these behaviors stem from a lack of stimulation has been eye-opening.

For a moment, I want you to imagine living in a long term care facility where you no longer had the freedom to drive where you pleased, you spent a majority of your time alone or in front of a television watching old movies, and went to the occasional game of Bingo…you might feel a little under-stimulated and might do something to stir things up, as well! I think a little empathy goes a long way in life, and this is especially true when working with older adults. (Most of us) have never been older adults and we will consider ourselves blessed if we live long enough to earn that title, but we can definitely still relate on a human level. People don’t lose their personalities and interests once they reach a certain age. I would argue that our personalities continue to develop and that humans become more interesting as they reach the most authentic version of themselves…

This post seems very tangential, and I apologize for that… I’m going to reel it back in and tell you about how my Memories in the Making painting sessions went this week! I have amassed a beautiful pile of art that I can’t wait to display when I’m all done with the project, and I sure have shared a lot of smiles. Today especially. The sun room I chose for today’s sessions was glowing from today’s much anticipated sunshine (I was starting to think I lived in Seattle minus some of the perks) and I had some Chuck Berry and Eddie Arnold playing for everyone’s listening pleasure. It was nothing short of lovely.

To refresh your memory, Memories in the Making (MIM) is a painting program that was developed by two artists associated with the Alzheimer’s Association. MIM was meant to serve as a vehicle for communication when communication becomes more difficult to achieve as one progresses through the stages of Alzheimer’s. I believe I have already started to observe this increase in communication with the friends I have painted with. Some were pretty verbal to begin with, but I definitely see how painting sort of ‘lightens’ things up and allows people to feel free to say what they like and share stories from another time.

MIM also satisfies our internal need for work and productivity as humans. Today, one of my patients said, “I guess I didn’t expect to get so much done by 10 AM!” after completing her painting. The look in my patients’ eyes when I hold their completed work up for them to examine requires no words.  Their looks of awe and admiration for their work are priceless. Many of the patients I have selected to participate in this program are very hesitant to paint initially, often times because they have no previous experience painting, or they just “don’t want to take up (my) time.” I am always quick to ensure my friends that this is not a painting contest and that I chose them to paint with me because I wanted their help, not just anybody’s. I have painted with a woman we will call L.S. for the last two weeks and just within the two sessions we have had, I have seen her confidence grow. During our first session, most of our conversation went back to her saying, “Ohh, I don’t know, honey, I don’t want to ruin your paintings. I don’t want to waste your time. Maybe you should have picked someone else to help you.” After a lot of assurance and the realization that she felt more comfortable when she had an outline to paint within, we worked together to paint a plant on display in the room. During our most recent session/ prior to beginning, she stated: “I like when you have an outline for me to paint within.” It amazed me that she remembered this detail from our session the week before, and I was so pleased to notice how much our conversation was focused on the fun we were having painting and her life stories as opposed to her anxiety about painting. MIM is about the process, ultimately, and not the product, so finding the way to make the experience the most fulfilling for my patients is my goal, and my heart is so full when I see this happening!

Next week I will start having small MIM groups–I’m excited to see the kinds of conversations we will have (they will likely be blog-able & I can’t wait to share 🙂 )

Have a blessed week ♥,




The work of L.S. over two sessions.




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