A few months ago, my family and I attended an art reception sponsored by Artz Philadelphia in which all art on exhibit was made by individuals with dementia living in nursing homes throughout the Philadelphia area. It was a moving experience for my family and I to listen to those with Alzheimer’s and related dementia explain their artwork. Importantly, it was refreshing to view the individuals as an artist, as opposed to an individual with dementia.

Artz Philadelphia, is a nonprofit whose mission “is to provide opportunities for self-expression and for the rebuilding of self-esteem and dignity to people with dementia and those who care for them.” They achieve this mission through evidence-based programs that connect people living with dementia and their care partners with artists, cultural organizations, and each other. 

In other words, instead of medicalizing Alzheimer’s disease, Artz Philadelphia helps to approach Alzheimer’s and related dementia in a different manner. The non-profit approaches dementia in an openness, creative and even playful manner. 

As the recent Washington Post article, Changing ‘the tragedy narrative’: Why a growing camp is promoting a more joyful approach to Alzheimer’s, states, “”Dementia is enormously painful,” said Mary Fridley, co-creator of a workshop called “The Joy of Dementia,” but she added, “I truly believe it is an opportunity, if people so choose, to be improvisational, to be silly, to play, to free ourselves from the constraints of truth and knowing and assumptions.” 

I am a member of the Board of Directors of Artz Philadelphia. I enjoy my involvement with this non-profit because it is fun. It is not about death and dying. It is about living life to your fullest potential. 

Our 2019 Elder Care Professional Symposium entitled, “Person Centered Elder Care: Transitioning Theories Into Practice”, will be devoted to discussing the cognitive and social strengths of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia through our keynote speaker, Dr. Steven Sabat, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Georgetown University. You can learn more about the Symposium, including how to register here.

As the Washington Post article stated, “Alzheimer’s can be a liberating event. This is in no way to dismiss the pain and suffering that comes from dementia, but to understand that a lot of that pain and suffering comes from the response.”

About Jerry

Jerold E. Rothkoff, a practicing New Jersey and Pennsylvania attorney, is the Principal of the Rothkoff Law Group, an elder care law firm. Jerry dedicates his practice to serving clients in the areas of life care planning, long-term care planning, Medicaid & VA benefits, and advocacy for the elderly and disabled. He is past President of the NJ Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, former chair of the elder law section of the NJ State Bar Association, and past President of the Life Care Planning Law Firm Association. Jerry continues to be an outspoken advocate for the rights of the elderly and disabled. He writes for and gives presentations regularly to attorneys and other professionals about legal issues related to seniors and those with disabilities. Jerry’s community activities include the Twilight Wish Foundation, the Delaware Valley Stroke Council, the Alzheimer’s Association, as well as numerous other advocacy groups. When not in the office, Jerry spends time with his wife, Erica, and their five children, eighteen-year old identical twin girls, Liza and Julia, fifteen-year old fraternal twin boys, Evan and Gregory, and six-year old Aitan.

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