How can I help Mum to live a life she enjoys?
That’s the challenge of living with and caring for my 88-year-old Mum, who has dementia.
The loss of independence and Mum’s diminished ability to read, write, concentrate and converse means the “usual ways” in which she enjoyed life are over.
Yet Mum’s interest in life and sharing experiences with others has not diminished.
Her love of people, the arts, nature, history, politics and social justice remains.
The challenge is to find new ways for Mum to connect and actively participate in life.
So I was thrilled to discover the Art Access Program at the NSW Art Gallery for people living with dementia.
Last month, Mum and I attended the program. For one-and-a-half hours, we entered a world of visual delight, imagination and story-telling.
The facilitator, Danielle Gullotta, Senior Access Programs Producer used inquiry-based techniques to help us interpret three selected artworks through observation, discussion, and stories.
Our favourite artwork was “clouds and undercurrent” by Judy Watson. An indigenous artist who lives and works on Jagera/Turrbal Country, Meanjin (Brisbane)
For 30 minutes, we inhabited the space. We sat from afar and gazed; we watched people engage with the art. We listened to the sounds. We walked around and got up close to admire the intricacies of Judy’s beautiful work.
Judy’s artwork conveys calmness. Her use of indigo, acrylic, natural pigments, embellishments on canvas, bunya pine leaves, nets, vinyl and sound sparked our imaginations and prompted us to express our connection to the ocean and the beach.
Mum said she feels joy feeling the sand between her toes and watching children play and run from the water’s edge as they squeal and laugh with excitement.
Mum spoke of the sense of freedom she feels when floating in the ocean. I love the sound of the waves crashing and the dynamic seascape, which reminds me that life is ever-changing.
We saw two other art installations, and although Mum didn’t feel a strong association as she did with Judy’s work, she appreciated the talents of the artists.
Mum might forget the outing, but not me. And even if she does, it doesn’t matter, for what is important is the moment we shared. And the enjoyment the activity provided us.
I loved experiencing art in such a new and profound way. And, I enjoyed doing something with Mum that was unrelated to the everyday activities of caring for her.
I am discovering that visual, sensory and auditory activities and experiences are the new ways to connect and communicate with Mum.
Thank you NSW Art Gallery for this program.
Read more information about Art Access programs