"Alzheimer’s is a disease that fights against anything new. It seems to relegate us to having the same simple conversations and doing the same basic things over and over."
"...the language around Alzheimer’s is often about what is 'remaining' and not what might yet be created."
My mother was identified with Alzheimer’s nearly eight years ago. In the time right after the diagnosis, I noticed few significant changes in her behavior. She was still excited to travel to see her family, to enjoy dinner at a nice restaurant, to watch a theatrical or a musical performance, to complete the New York Times Sunday crossword. But Alzheimer’s took more and more of her memory, and the things we loved to do together became difficult, and then, increasingly, impossible.
Finding new activities to do together remains challenging. Alzheimer’s is a disease that fights against anything new. It seems to relegate us to having the same simple conversations and doing the same basic things over and over. So it was with some trepidation that I pulled out the materials from my Art2Remember package and set them in front of my mother. Not only was I introducing something new into our routine, I was asking her to do something she’d never done before in her life. This seemed like a risk; the language around Alzheimer’s is often about what is “remaining” and not what might yet be created. But, indeed, my mother created that night!
With her canvas, sponges, and paints, my mother listened as I read from the brief instructions and artist summary provided; then she focused on an image of Claude Monet’s “Bridge Over a Pond of Water Lilies” and set about creating her own work. Forty minutes later, my mother was finished. Her painting looked only a little like Claude Monet’s, of course. Except I could absolutely tell it was inspired by his work. Also, I could tell that my mother’s work looked different because she made artistic choices in the moment that were all her own. She had never intended to imitate Monet. She made something new, her own, original. She offered one of the greatest testaments to the experience later on in the evening. We were at the table having dessert and tea, and she spied the painting, drying, on the edge of the table. “My,” she began, “that’s beautiful! Martin, who made that?” Beaming, I responded, “You did, Mom. You did.”