(Leah Bousfield/ Rimbey Review)
Left to right: Jamie Coston OMA Volunteer, Sheila Fletcher OMA Artist, Betty Anne Green OMA Volunteer. (Leah Bousfield/ Rimbey Review)

(Leah Bousfield/ Rimbey Review) Left to right: Jamie Coston OMA Volunteer, Sheila Fletcher OMA Artist, Betty Anne Green OMA Volunteer. (Leah Bousfield/ Rimbey Review)

Creating beauty in the face of aging and loss

By Michaela Ludwig

For Black Press News Media

There’s nothing easy about watching a loved one suffer with dementia, but Rimbey FCSS is helping patients create something beautiful in spite of the weight of their diagnosis.

Rimbey FCSS, along with volunteers and local patients, recently completed the first eight-week session of Opening Minds Through Art (OMA), a program that pairs dementia patients together with volunteers so the patients can learn to express themselves through art.

“The volunteers are trained to rely on imagination instead of memory, and focus on remaining strengths instead of lost skills,” explained Rimbey FCSS worker Tresa Lowe, who is trained to facilitate the program. “OMA also enables people with dementia to assume new roles as artists and teachers and leaves a legacy of beautiful artwork.”

FCSS has plans to run another eight-week session in the fall, beginning Sept. 7.

The class began May 4 and ran every Wednesday for an hour in the morning. The artist and the volunteer were matched together and they stayed working as a pair for the entire eight weeks.

“With dementia, the artist might not remember the volunteer or their name, but they do remember that there was good feelings or that they have an emotional bond. They remember this is a safe place,” explained Lowe.

“Our artists were all at different stages of dementia, so they each got something different out of the program. Some were shocked that they had been able to do it. Some thought it looked like a mess, but once it was properly framed, you could see how proud they were of it and shocked that they did that.”

But the program doesn’t just benefit the artists. Lowe said the volunteers also got a lot out of their time spent in the program.

“The bond between the artist and the volunteer, it just makes your heart smile, seeing them together.”

At the end of the eight weeks, Rimbey FCSS hosted an art show, to auction off the completed works. The show was open for anyone to bid and the money raised went back into the OMA program.

Rimbey FCSS received a government grant that allowed Lowe and her co-worker, Becky Villeneuve, to both take training to be able to facilitate this program. Going forward, Lowe said FCSS will be planning more sessions.

If you have a loved one that you believe would benefit from taking part in this program, call Rimbey FCSS at 403-843-2030. The program is always in need of volunteers, as well. Volunteers go through a screening process and then take training to be able to work with the artists.

 

(Leah Bousfield/ Rimbey Review)
OMA Volunteer Katherine Renaud (left back), Christine Fernie (right back), and OMA artist Kathleen Winterhault (sitting). (Leah Bousfield/ Rimbey Review)

(Leah Bousfield/ Rimbey Review) OMA Volunteer Katherine Renaud (left back), Christine Fernie (right back), and OMA artist Kathleen Winterhault (sitting). (Leah Bousfield/ Rimbey Review)