"Captivating and detailed, they tell stories of love, adventure and hope"

“She called her painting ‘The weeping animal and the ugly wee snowman’. A picture with exquisite detail, vivid colour and an unforgettable title. That word, unforgettable. You see she did forget. Almost everything – where she lived, what she did five minutes ago but most of all she forgot she had always been told she couldn’t paint. But she could.

Now that her brain was dying she forgot to care about what other people told her. She forgot to care about criticism, about limiting herself to what she ‘could’ do. Ironic that living with dementia was empowering her…

Dementia and empowering are words that you seldom see together yet in my work as and Artist, Engagement Development Coordinator and a Dementia Ambassador, I see the evidence.  I encourage and enable people living with dementia to create. To play. To sing. And yes, to acquire new skills.

I watched a half blind 98 year old, hands crippled with arthritis, painstakingly draw a house with a shattered window because “My wean kicked something at it and it made a noise.” So, we paint in a creative, imaginative way, using whatever they can hold. Then they look, really look at what they see…And every time they talk about what they see, I’m enthralled. It becomes storytelling. Captivating and detailed, they tell stories of love, adventure and hope, about a life before they were old. Memories retrieved from parts of their brain that’s not dying.

Dementia is terminal. Cruel beyond measure, it robs, it removes. Language, movement, inhibition can all disappear as it ravages without mercy. Yet the heartbreak, pain and loss which is tangible and raw in the people watching their loved ones fade away is much less evident in the person themselves.

Somehow, somewhere they have a coping mechanism that our healthy brains don’t have. Maybe it’s their final loving act. A way of guiding us to acceptance, to coping, to letting go.”

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