Mary struggles with casual conversations, but she’s able to pick up a paintbrush and express herself. Her dementia doesn’t keep her from following step by step as artist Lana Beck demonstrates how to bring to life a bird, a ladybug, a Christmas tree.
Lana leads a painting class every other week at The Lutheran Home: Belle Plaine in the Special Care Residence (SCR), which provides specialized care as Alzheimer’s or other dementias progress. The creative experience for residents with early to middle stage dementia spurs memories and allows storytelling about the art they produce. Many family members purposely visit SCR during painting classes.
“It’s fun for them to see their loved one’s artistic ability come out, and it gives them something to talk about together,” said Emily Bullert, CTRS, Therapeutic Recreation Coordinator at The Lutheran Home. “Plus it’s relaxing and fun for residents. We try to involve new residents each time, but many want to join every class.”
A three-year grant through the Minnesota Department of Human Services Performance-based Incentive Payment Program (PIPP) funds the class. PIPP has allowed TLHA to successfully use evidence-based practices and programming in the Special Care Residence to achieve person centered care, improve the quality of life of nursing home residents, provide meaningful activities and improve reduction of psychotropic medications.
“This class is a special time to keep your hands busy and talk about whatever you want to talk about. We learn together, and the painting never comes out the same on anybody’s,” said Lana, who is a Belle Plaine native with personal connections to many residents.
Working with SCR residents is similar to classes Lana has taught at her studio — maybe even a bit more fun.
“People get excited because they made something on their own and it’s art,” Lana said. “There’s something about soul in art. When people create something, there’s a lot of pride there. And I always make everybody sign their name or initials and the year.”
The art is also décor. Lana recently painted the silhouette of a large tree on a wall at SCR. Hidden nails allow the paintings to hang from the tree’s branches. Residents, family, visitors and team members all appreciate the “wall of fame,” which has become a conversation piece.
“If you can give anybody their dignity and their pride back, isn’t that everything?” Lana said.
With the support of the PIPP grant, The Lutheran Home Association has observed an improvement in quality of life and engagement for residents. The creative additions to activity programs have facilitated positive changes of mood and emotional states, increased the ability to learn and recall, provided a non-pharmacological management of pain and discomfort and created opportunities for creative output, emotional support and social interaction.
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