When Julianne Moore accepted the Academy Award for playing the part of a woman diagnosed with early onset dementia in the movie Still Alice, she gave a beautiful speech in which she mentioned the importance of shining a light on Alzheimer’s disease. I recently learned that, right here in New Orleans, Poydras Home and the New Orleans Museum of Art are collaboratively launching a project that, among other things, will do just that. Artful Minds is a program with a very clear mission: To use directed exposure to art in ways that will benefit people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Alzheimer’s is a multifaceted and complex disease for which there’s no cure. Anyone who has watched a friend, family member, or loved one face the reality of Alzheimer’s understands that it is quite literally life-changing – and not only for the person who has the disease. Because it impairs one’s memory and one’s ability to communicate, Alzheimer’s has a particularly intense impact on friends, family members and caretakers.
Caring for a person with dementia, by all accounts, is overwhelming. With symptoms that are constantly in flux, one never really knows what to expect. A relatively calm day might be followed by a day filled with anger and extreme confusion. And, especially because people with Alzheimer’s tend to wander, something as simple as a trip to the grocery store might turn into a frightening experience. Hence the need for programs like Artful Minds.
The goal of the program is to offer carefully planned museum tours that will suit the unique needs of people with Alzheimer’s. Under the right circumstances, a visit to the museum has the potential to offer a respite from the challenges that come with dementia’s impaired cognitive functioning. Art stimulates the mind, senses and emotions, and one’s response to art is fully subjective. Enjoying art doesn’t require the use of memory, and there are no right or wrong answers – all of which might come as a relief for a person with dementia.
For guidance in bringing Artful Minds to fruition, NOMA and Poydras Home enlisted the help of consultants Arts & Minds. A nonprofit organization committed to using art-centered programs to enhance the quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Arts & Minds facilitates the planning, training and implementation of programs like Artful Minds.
While not all of us are touched directly by Alzheimer’s, its ripple effects are far reaching. Offering innovative programs such as this one will enhance the lives of many while bringing attention to an important issue. With their foreword-thinking efforts to utilize art as a therapeutic tool for people living with dementia, the New Orleans Museum of Art and Poydras Home are making a difference in our community.
If you would like to learn more about Artful Minds, contact either Poydras Home Marketing Coordinator Jennifer Brammell at 897-0535 or NOMA’s Communications and Marketing Manager Allison Gouaux at 658-4106.
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