United Church Homes is Helping Open Minds Through Art

Alzheimer’s disease has been described as a marathon in which residents and families progressively feel as if they’re losing control of minor details in their lives. As the mind and memory begin to fail, however, feelings of isolation, confusion, desperation, and frustration often emerge, compounding the disease’s impact on the quality of life.

A new program of United Church Homes is designed to provide residents with the creative freedom to expand their choices and sense of control. Opening Minds through Art (OMA) uses art and self-expression, coupled with person-centered care principles, to build a bridge across age and cognitive barriers.

OMA is an award-winning, intergenerational program for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia-related illnesses. Developed by the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami (Ohio) University, OMA is a ten-week course in which residents work individually with volunteers. The end result of each session is that residents create a unique work of art, based on their vision, interests, and initiative.

Participants in the program are given a series of choices in a judgment-free environment that enable them to exercise control over the creative process. Facilitators of the OMA programs at Patriot Ridge, Trinity, and Fairhaven Communities attended an extensive training and certification program at Miami University to prepare them to lead volunteers in working with individual resident-artists. An essential element of OMA is the one-on-one sessions which, given the close interaction, foster a personal bond between each artist and volunteer. OMA builds confidence in residents who may not otherwise find self-expression. When the five weeks are over, an art show will display the creativity of each resident.

UCH seeks to promote autonomy by creating dignity and a sense of accomplishment for all residents and OMA contributes to those ideals. Volunteers say that residents who were previously disengaged became excited and animated after participating in OMA. UCH believes that a person’s need for creative expression continues throughout every stage of life.

To learn more about OMA and other dementia-related programs, please watch our video, “Wholeness.”

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