Silverado Intern Shares Personal Experience with Art Therapy

Location : Orange County Hospice 
Arttherapy ENRICHED

by Hailey Holmes, graduated Silverado Hospice intern

As a Masters of Social Work intern at Silverado Hospice, I immediately began looking for opportunities to positively impact our patients. Lori, a fellow intern, inspired me with her knowledge of utilizing art to benefit those with dementia.

She had previously worked as a facilitator for Memories inthe Making — a unique art program designed by the Alzheimer’s Association. Through the program, Lori learned firsthand how art could help memory-impaired individuals express themselves — even when other forms of communication had declined.

Research studies have demonstrated that when a patient and an art facilitator engage creatively, the brain is stimulated. Art created from memories can cultivate a relational connection. In this process of creativity, the patient is able to bring together inside feelings with an outside experience.

During a staff training class led by Lori, we each were asked to paint a peaceful memory using watercolors. Lori used that exercise to teach the techniques and strategies she had learned from her previous experience. As a result, I felt a sense of happiness from having painted my own peaceful memory — an emotion I later had an opportunity to share with a Silverado patient.

While visiting with a new patient, who was diagnosed with dementia, I decided to use the techniques Lori had taught me. The first few times I asked if she would like to paint, she
said, “That sounds fun, but not today.” Finally, she accepted my offer. She painted a picnic, a fishing pole and a river in England where she spent weekends with her family. At the end of our visit, she appeared peaceful and happy. The next week, she painted a beautiful bouquet of wild flowers in a vase, recalling, “My garden always brought me peace.” She then shared, “I never knew I could enjoy life again. Thank you
for coming.” I didn’t know at the time that this would be the last painting she created. Two weeks later, she passed away.

Looking back, I know I was able to provide a great sense of peace and happiness. We remembered good times in her life when she felt active, peaceful and loved. I did not know the power that art could have over a patient’s hardships until I experienced it firsthand.

Soon after, I gave the painting to the patient’s daughter. She immediately teared up and said to me, “Thank you for giving me a piece of my mom back. I will keep this in my daughter’s room so the legacy that my mom created can live on.” To this day, I truly feel that the piece of art gave her daughter the happiness that my patient had felt while painting it.

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