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.”