The Artist Within Exhibit Features the Creative Minds of Artists with Dementia

January 15th, 2016

-Painting by Joan Dolan
The Artist Within exhibit, featuring 51 artworks created by 43 different artists ages 60-101 opened at the Harborview Medical Center Cafeteria March 10, 2016 after garnering rave reviews at the Anne Focke Gallery during January and February. The thought provoking and profoundly original paintings are all created by people living with dementia. The exhibit, the first of its kind in the Northwest, is the brainchild of former Seattle International Children’s Festival director and founder of American Voices Lecture Series, Marilyn Raichle. The inspiration? Her mother, Jean, who forgot she couldn’t paint and began creating “amazing” works of art at Seattle’s innovative dementia day program, Elderwise. “My third act,” Raichle said quietly, referring to this project, her career, and the way her mother’s art transformed her view of Alzheimer’s, “is the best.”

orange meanie“Art is a way past the fear,” Raichle explained to me.”I showed these paintings to someone the other day and she said,’I had no idea! This turns everything I know about Alzheimer’s on it’s head!'”

Painting, “Orange Meanie” by Jean Raichle

What we know about Alzheimer’s and dementia can be scary:

  • Over 5 million people live with it and 1 in 9 will be diagnosed.
  • No medication cures, effectively slows, or manages disease progression.
  • Incidences of Dementia increased by 71% since 2000.
  • Support services are slow in developing and Dementia can be a disease of remarkably long duration.

Portrait of Paula by Hope Lawrence

Family incidence of Alzheimer’s and some Dementias can increase the risk of contracting the disease. Alzheimer’s runs in Marilyn’s family as she writes on her website: “I was raised in the shadow of Alzheimer’s with nearly everyone on my father’s side and many in mother’s developing the disease. We were taught that when Alzheimer’s arrived, it was like a death—actually worse than death. Our parents warned us, ‘Don’t sacrifice your lives for us. When our time comes, just walk away.’ And we all believed it.”

“And then Mom began to paint…” Raichle explains. Art and Alzheimer’s have one thing in common they’re transformational. They hold the power to transform identity and perception or to inspire. The bright cryptic art Marilyn’s mother produced, “opened my eyes to the fact that while her memory was fading, her spirit remained strong, inventive and engaging.” The artworks became Marilyn’s gateway to greater understanding and personal transformation. “I discovered how to slow down and, this sounds so Hallmark-y, but it tapped an ability to love that I didn’t know I had. It got me out of myself to listen and learn the value of real time.” Similarly, she’s hoping the The Artist Within exhibit helps to change the way society sees people living with dementia by inviting us to look anew and meet them as creative people with artistic voices; as artists.

Jean Raichle

“My mother was distilled to her essence–a happy, sunny personality,” Marilyn recalled, “She walked around all day long with her hands in her pockets and she’d stop and tell people how beautiful they are. I got to take that journey with her.” Not everyone’s essence is sunny and perhaps not everyone with dementia is bared to their essence but something happens in all cases that we generally don’t yet understand. To the lay person it may look absent, confused or just puzzling. With skillful support and access to the universal language of music, art, or poetry though many are finding that a new space opens in the liberation of former identity. Sometimes it’s a spiritual and beautiful place. The artists featured in The Artist Within exhibit give us a glimpse of that vibrant inner space and the profound re-seeing of reality that artists have been sharing with humanity for centuries.

artist f stoneThe Artist Within is easily one of the most interesting and surprising projects in my framing career, writes Mainframe who framed and provided logistics for the exhibit. “The artwork is float mounted using Japanese paper hinges, acid free mats, UV conservation glazing and reclaimed Pine frames from Urban Ashes.” Every piece is treated for gallery display and will be returned to the artists. Painting at left by Frank Stone

The Artist Within exhibit is on view March 10-late May at Harborview Medical Center Cafeteria, 325 Ninth Avenue. Admission is free.



Powerful Tools For Caregivers

December 8th, 2015

More than 800,000 people in Washington  are family caregivers. Nationally that number is 65 million according to the Caregiver Action Network. Yet these big numbers don’t tell the whole story. Caregiving has changed. Advanced medicine and better treatments for chronic illness means that loved ones are experiencing longer lives and richer programmatic opportunities which, in turn, requires sustained caregiving lasting 5 to 10 years or more. Caregivers are being asked to manage complex medical maintenance or navigate the long term care system while simultaneously trying to keep their own lives stable and balanced. It can be overwhelming. One of the strongest caregiver support programs available nationwide is called Powerful Tools for Caregivers.

“I’m one of Powerful Tools’ biggest fans,” social worker and Powerful Tools facilitator Carin Mack confessed. “Powerful Tools is a 6 week free intensive program that offers family caregivers the opportunity to learn new strategies for self care within a caring community,” she said. Classes, held once a week, enhance caregivers’ self-care, emotional balance, coping skills, and confidence. In particular, Mack noted, “The group offers ways to handle some of the most difficult emotions experienced in caregiving such as guilt, depression, anger, frustration and grief. It offers new Read the rest of this entry »

Seattle Harpist Adds Patient Therapy to her Repertoire

October 28th, 2015

monica-headshot“My work as a therapeutic harpist is a service and not a performance. I don’t expect any kind of recognition,” multi-talented Seattle musician Monica Schley explained when she sat down to discuss her experience as a Certified Clinical Musician. Most of Schley’s musical roles, such as her chamber-pop band, The Daphnes, or role in the experimental pop opera, “Now I’m Fine,” involve performance and entertainment but through her service as a therapeutic musician, she says, she’s found “soul purpose” and improved aspects of her musicianship.

Schley began her journey with the harp at the age of 14. Since then she’s gained mastery of her instrument and acquired a wide repertoire of music which will  soon debut on her first full length album “Keep the Night Dark.” Her experience spans classical, chamber, rock, jazz, improvisation and avant garde. She teaches, composes, and has collaborated with dozens of musicians. Three years ago she did something different. She enrolled in a course in clinical musicianship accredited by the National Standards Board for Therapeutic Musicians. In addition to the coursework she served an intensive internship playing roughly 40 hours in hospitals and kidney dialysis centers and 20 hours in hospice. This is the first year she’s been practicing with full certification. As a therapeutic harpist, Schley says, her ability to memorize music has improved and “It really opened up my ears to how I connect music and sound.” Read the rest of this entry »

Dotty’s Ten Tips For Communicating With A Person Living With Dementia

October 2nd, 2015

I first encountered “Dotty’s Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person Living With Dementia” when it was published within a blog at The Art of Alzheimer’s in July of this year. Authored by Dorothy DeMarco and originally appearing at the Alzheimer’s Reading room Dotty’s Ten Tips are republished here with the kind permission of her son, Bob DeMarco.

Dotty’s Ten Tips for Communicating with a Person Living with Dementia

1. You know what makes me feel safe, secure, and happy? A smile.

2. Did you ever consider this? When you get tense and uptight it makes me feel tense and uptight.

3. Instead of getting all bent out of shape when I do something that seems perfectly normal to me, and perfectly nutty to you, why not just smile at me? It will take the edge off the situation all the way around.

4. Please try to understand and remember it is my short term memory, my right now memory, that is gone — don’t talk so fast, or use so many words.

5. You know what I am going to say if you go off into long winded explanations on why we should do something? I am going to say No, because I can never be certain if you are asking me to do something I like, or drink a bottle of castor oil. So I’ll just say No to be safe.

6. Slow down. And don’t sneak up on me and start talking. Did I tell you I like smiles?

7. Make sure you have my attention before you start blabbering away. What is going to happen if you start blabbering away and you don’t have my attention, or confuse me? I am going to say No – count on it.

8. My attention span and ability to pay attention are not as good as they once were, please make eye contact with me before you start talking. A nice smile always gets my attention. Did I mention that before?

9. Sometimes you talk to me like I am a child or an idiot. How would you like it if I did that to you? Go to your room and think about this. Don’t come back and tell me you are sorry, I won’t know what you are talking about. Just stop doing it and we will get along very well, and probably better than you think.

10. You talk too much — instead try taking my hand and leading the way. I need a guide not a person to nag me all the time.

Record Turnout at 9th Annual Blooming With The Boomers Conference

September 14th, 2015

blooming-front4Home Care agency professionals and service providers gathered at the 9th Annual Washington Home Care Association’s “Blooming With The Boomers” Conference Tuesday at the Lynnwood Convention Center. Record numbers of home care professionals and service providers attended. During the two day event, September 15 and 16, participants exchanged information about best practices and strategies for managing business while also learning how policies and laws are shaping home care. With A Little Help’s Director of Business Development, Shawn D’Amelio, who chaired the Conference Committee for last year’s successful event, leads the Committee again this year. Read the rest of this entry »

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