Art is the only way to run away without leaving home. ~Twyla Tharp
Reverend Katie Norris knows firsthand the power of a welcoming environment. She has learning disabilities and works better in a room free of distractions. When her mom, Carolyn Farrell, was diagnosed with dementia, Katie turned to art as a way to deepen their connection. Her art projects were so satisfying that she wrote a book, Creative Connections in Dementia Care, offering simple and meaningful ideas for engaging through the arts.
Katie grew up going to Montessori schools where everything had a place and the work area was clean. She flourished in that environment and realized her mom would flourish as well.
Creating note cards is one of Katie’s favorite projects, since they are fun and easy, and result in a tangible, useful gift. If you have time, you can make a card in advance, so you’ll have an example to share. This is a relaxing activity for people of all abilities and does not require an artistic temperament. The complete recipe for notecards is in Katie’s book.
- To begin, set out the materials.
- Fold paper into the desired size. Or you can buy blank cards and envelopes at a hobby store.
- Decide if you each want to make your own cards. Or you can work together.
- Use paints or colors to create a free form design. If you’re working with someone who likes more structure, draw some bright lines on the card to form a simple design. They can then paint within and around the design or highlight the picture by outlining it with buttons, glitter, stickers, or paint. Demonstrate the options and leave plenty of space for creative unfolding.
- Extras include painting the background of the card with a little paint roller, called a brayer brush, adding design with sponge daubers, or gluing on pictures gleaned from old magazines and cards.
- People also enjoy decorating the envelope.
The notecards have a variety of uses, depending on the desires of the person living with dementia. You can donate them to churches or children’s hospitals, give them to friends and family, or frame the finished product for display. Or you can send your own notes on it.
“This project works well with an intergenerational group,” Katie says. “We involved our faith community, by asking them to host a button drive for us. That gave us a chance to share the finished products with them.”
Sharing this art helps people understand the vast creativity of those living with dementia.
For more information about Katie and her book, visit www.RevKatieNorris.com
Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.