Saturday, February 27, 2010

Alzheimer's Disease Programs at Museums: Art appreciation, therapy

I've been researching accessibility options at museums, galleries and the like for persons with disabilities. I'm interested both in disabled artists and how institutions such as museums are coming up with tours and educational services for patrons with disabilities.
Elderly People Engaged in Artistic Activities Inside the Rest Home
Right: Elderly People creating artwork, Villani, A. Photo Print - Buy at

I came upon some interesting museum programs, in particular one at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the MoMA.

Their program is called Meet Me at the MoMa and it's a monthly event for persons with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers to visit when the museum is usually closed to the public.

The program now has its own web site.

From their web site:
"MoMA is one of the first museums in the country to offer programs to make its collection and special exhibitions accessible to people with Alzheimers disease and their caregivers.

"These offerings give those living with the degenerative disease an expressive outlet and forum for dialogue. Specially trained Museum educators engage participants in the early and middle stages of the disease in lively discussions by focusing in depth on iconic art from MoMA's collection and special exhibitions."

[image from the MoMA's Meet Me at The Met site]

The people working in the MoMA Alzheimer's Program are set to visit assisted living facilities where they'll be able to educate others on the use of art therapy in the care of those with dementia.

ARTZ Museum Network is designed for Alzheimer's patients, their family and care partners. They have a schedule of tours and information on their web site.

Most of the museums and galleries that I found say that they work with persons whose dementia and/or Alzheimer's disease is in the early to middle stages.

All of them appear to include the caretakers and/or close family members in the mix. Some charge a fee for the sessions. Each one is different. Some even help with transportation.

The Denver Art Museum conducts Art & About tours "for visitors with early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia and their care partners. Experience and discuss art together on a tour led by a specially trained guide."

The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art has its Piece of Mind Alzheimer's Tour Program. Many of the museums offering such services do so in conjunction with local hospitals, clinics and/or research organizations. The Cape Cod Museum of Art partners with Alzheimer's Services of Cape Cod and the Islands and has an art-related program for people with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.

The Orlando Museum of Art in Florida has Art's the Spark, a regular meeting that includes viewing and making art. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona offers Arts Engagement, a program for those with Alzheimer's and their care partners.

You'll find Spark Programs at The Milwaukee Public Museum. "SPARK! is a program for caregivers and loved ones suffering from beginning to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. We are pleased to be one of ten Wisconsin museums awarded funding by the Helen Bader Foundation to create such programming."

The Museum of Art & Archaeology at the University of Missouri has its own Healing Arts Program. The creation of art is a main focus of the program as it is a form of art therapy for the participants.

From their web site:
"Studies have established that art can provide people with Alzheimer's disease a way to express their thoughts and emotions. AD can affect a person’s ability to communicate due to cognitive, behavioral and emotional changes. Art therapy provides AD patients and their caregivers with a tool that can provide the ability to communicate in ways other than verbally."

The Toledo Museum of Art and the Alzheimer’s Association, Northwest Ohio Chapter continue a monthly series of Museum tours especially for those dealing with mild memory loss and their families and friends.

You may be interested in Alzheimer's Disease in Movies, books and songs, a page I created to help families find support and comfort.

Also check out the DVD video, I Remember Better When I Paint.
Narrated by Olivia de Havilland, is a documentary about the positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer's and how these approaches can change the way we look at the disease.

I'd love to hear of other institutions where they're using the arts to assist the person with Alzheimer's and his or her family and caretakers.

If you're reading this on my Facebook Fan Page, you may also want to check out my blog.

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