January 18, 2024
Artist Linda Rice, centre, is joined by her son Terry, left, and his wife Maggie Taylor as she shows off her favourite artwork that she created for the Opening Minds through Art silent auction. Photo by Kelly Morris.
Funds raised at the Opening Minds through Art silent auction were donated to the Alzheimer Society. Photo by Kelly Morris.
Story & photos by Kelly Morris
LETHBRIDGE — As family and friends gather, Brittany Wilton, a Recreation Therapist with Alberta Health Services (AHS), introduces the artists who created artwork for a silent auction to raise funds for the Alzheimer Society. All the artists are living with dementia; the guests and donors are their friends and family, many of whom seek support from the society to navigate their care.
The silent auction is the culmination of a 12-week Opening Minds through Art therapy program — an intergenerational endeavour that helps give back autonomy to people with dementia.
“There’s a lot of loss experienced when you move into a facility. Your everyday choices become limited,” says Wilton. “This program gives back choices and helps each individual to be creative and feel like they’re contributing to something important in society and the facility, while also showcasing their strengths.”
One of the artists, Linda Rice, says she enjoyed rediscovering her creative side.
“I didn't think I was artistic. It’s something to do that’s beautiful, colourful,” she adds, with a shy smile as she shows off her favourite piece. “Purple and pink, that’s my colours.”
To facilitate the weekly art sessions, AHS partnered with first-year Lethbridge College Therapeutic Recreation students, who paired up with the same artist each week to build strong relationships.
“A lot of times when people are in a facility, they're socially isolated if they don't have family who are able to visit on a regular basis. Those extra supports are really important,” says Wilton. “It's also beneficial for people who are interested in the field of therapeutic recreation to learn foundational skills, gain reminiscing skills and be able to interact with people with cognitive impairment.”
Rice’s daughter-in-law, Maggie Taylor, recognizes the impact of working with the same person each week, and shares that “for Linda to have this college student come and sit with her one-on-one and create this beautiful thing — she just looks so happy.”
The funds raised at the silent auction were donated to the Alzheimer Society, creating a full circle of support.
“It's a great opportunity to demonstrate the impact that therapeutic recreation can have when we all work together to improve the lives of people in our community that have a diagnosis of dementia,” says Wilton.
In Lethbridge, the Alzheimer Society provides support groups, information sessions and a referral program called First Link. The society received $645 in proceeds from the silent auction.
“A lot of our clients are caring for someone living in this facility,” says Taylor Slomp, a Client Services Navigator with the society. “It's super cool to support the person living with dementia through these amazing, dignifying programs — and for us, on the other end, to be supporting the caregivers in giving them the best care all around.”
The Opening Minds through Art program not only gave residents an opportunity to flex their creative muscles, but an opportunity to gather with loved ones and celebrate their abilities.
“I think it's a lovely sense of community to bring people together, especially the residents here,” adds Taylor. “Some days are long, right? And I think this brightens up their days.”