Monday, December 27, 2010

The Power of Pictures

A favorite way for many of our caregivers to spend quality time with a loved one is to look at photographs. They could be from a giant coffee table book or a beloved family photo album or scrapbook.

We all love to view photographs because of the strong emotions they can evoke, and memories too. Recently a representative from the Museum of Photographic Arts presented some images from the Balboa Park museum's permanent collection to participants at our Hillcrest Center.

The slideshow was titled "Around the World" and everyone was guessed the location of each photo, then discussed any memories that might be associated with that place, be it China, Mexico, Arizona, Laos, Israel, Haiti and other locations. They were asked about the subjects' body language and also about the composition of the photos themselves. Each gave the MoPA representative their rapt attention.

We thought of this experience when reading a piece in the Pittsburgh Gazette today about museum programs for Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers. A New York University medical team evaluated patients' behaviors before and after viewing an art exhibit.

Here's what they discovered:

Effects on participants in general, the NYU med school study showed, included caregivers reporting fewer problems during the week following their visit; both caregivers and patients reporting elevated mood; caregivers reporting an increase in social support; and patients reporting elevated self-esteem.

"It's a beautiful experience," said Ms. Perkins. "The caregiver enjoys the art with the loved one. They're outside the care facility ... [the caregivers] are creating a memory of their loved one."

Ms. Berringer said, "I see them making connections with other people. They sit up a little taller. They talk a little louder. I really think their behavior changes when they leave [Woodside] and go out in the community. It happens on other trips, too, but especially the museum.

Article: Museum Programs for Alzheimer's Patients Shows the Power of Art as Therapy