Imagine not being able to speak or communicate with words. It is a frustrating and infuriating situation for many people living with Alzheimer’s and for their families. But, there is a way to break through and help them communicate through art and creativity.

Bridget Hinrichs, life enrichment coordinator at Sagecrest Alzheimer’s Care Center at Baptist Retirement Community campus, likes to push residents to test their creative expression. Having learned that creative expression is beneficial for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia, Hinrichs decided to begin an art class for residents at Baptist Retirement Community and feels that the classes give residents a boost by showing them that they can accomplish something that they thought they couldn’t do.

For residents living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, this outlet is one of only a few ways that they can exercise expression, and the results are mind-boggling. The art class is held for memory care residents every Thursday from 2:00 to 3:15 p.m. She now has a growing collection of artwork in her office and is preparing to showcase it all in an inspiring art exhibit. The class has made pressed prints and acrylic paintings, worked with chalk paint and water colors, melted Crayola crayons on canvases with blow dryers and more.

For Hinrichs and the loved ones of residents, it is extraordinary to see a resident who has trouble speaking or communicating to any degree, walking or making any kind of physical movement in general, pick up a paintbrush and focus on creating vibrant pieces of artwork.  Hinrichs has partnered with local volunteers Laura Dane, an artist who used to lead college art classes, as well as Paulette Hernandez, whose husband has Alzheimer’s, to make the weekly art class possible. In the beginning, Hinrichs encouraged residents to draw or paint whatever came to mind. Over time, they found that a more structured class yielded better results, and they began to work together to preplan the artwork and paintings that will be made during each session. Some of the residents still choose to draw freely, looking for inspiration in their surroundings or pulling simple memories from their lives. For many of the residents, the art class is a time for them to reminisce about the projects they used to create in school. It gets them thinking in a different way, and it engages them with their right brain.

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