Painting with people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease can unlock a world of creativity. The activity can remain a companion for someone with Alzheimer’s disease whether they are low or high functioning. It can trigger powerful memories, and transport people through time and they paint memories that are otherwise hidden.
These five tips will make painting a fun and enjoyable activity for those suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Tip #1 for Painting with Alzheimer’s – Use Non-toxic Paint

For people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, paint can easily look like ketchup, candy, or something else that looks tasty. Always use non-toxic paint when working with the Alzheimer’s population.

Tip #2 for Painting with Alzheimer’s – Do Not Paint for Them

It is easy to get bored, or want to move the project along when helping someone with Alzheimer’s paint a picture.

It is very important not to rush the project or, even worse, paint for them. I have seen many well intended CNAs or volunteers add an extra stroke on the page to help the project along. This only angers, and dehumanizes, people suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Tip #3 for Painting with Alzheimer’s – Always Ask About What They Are Painting

Always ask what they are painting. It may look like a green dot, but it could be a Christmas Tree. It could be the Christmas Tree from the first Christmas after Kennedy was shot, or the first Christmas after their first baby was born. These memories are the reason why people paint. It brings the stories back to life, and helps people relive their past that may be hidden because of the disease.

Tip #4 for Painting with Alzheimer’s – Play Music in the Background

Play music in the background. You will want to play music from when they were teenagers or young adults. People born in 1930, will probably like music from 1943-1950. They will likely be annoyed with music from when their children where teenagers. Someone born in 1930 is unlikely to like Elvis music.

Tip #5 for Painting with Alzheimer’s – Memories in the Making

Memories in the Making is a program that helps celebrate the talent and creativity of those who suffer from Alzheimer’s. The program gathers work of art from talented artists from around the country. All of the artists have one thing in common, they all suffer from a common disease, Alzheimer’s.

Memories in the Making sells a calendar displaying some of the best work they receive. The calendar is an inspiration. A reminder that the memories may be hidden at times, but that they can resurface. It is an inspiration that while this disease has many victims, creativity does not have to be one of them.