My mother died of Alzheimer’s. My husband’s mother of vascular dementia. Tonight, on behalf of everyone who knows someone with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, I share with you a letter I received from Berna Huebner, co-Director with Eric Ellena of I Remember Better When I Paint, a film narrated by Oliva de Havilland about the impact art therapy can have on those living with dementia.
So many people I know have a parent, or an aunt or uncle, or a grandparent or good friend or sibling whose life has been invaded by this most unwelcome visitor, one that stays and never leaves.
“Their involvement with the arts and other creative activities, is now being recognized as a way to help bring them back into more active communication and a richer quality of life.”
There are many of us who have experienced first hand the connection to a passion for one art form or another that someone with cognitive memory problems will often retain even when they have almost completely lost their ability to communicate normally.
For my mother, it was through music and drawing. I would play her Frank Sinatra CDs when we would sit and color together. And I saw the look on her face when she was completely absorbed in the music during our art sessions. I know the impact that music therapy, dance therapy…art therapy can have.
Below is Berna’s letter, which I have copied here in its entirety, because it gives the details about the Alzheimer’s crisis worldwide and the tells the story of this wonderful and moving film, which I have seen.
Berna and her partners on I Remember Better When I Paint need to bring this film to a wider audience. Just think what could happen if each of us gave just $5. $10. $25.
I have a dream that when enough people in this country know about the power of art therapy, our friends, lovers and family members with Alzheimer’s will at least be able to remain connected to their artistic souls because their family members will use art therapy as a tool to improve the quality of their daily lives.
Kindly read Berna’s letter, and donate if at all possible. All of the details are in her letter.
“October 6, 2013
We need your help. Over 5.2 million Americans currently have Alzheimer’s disease and that number is expected to triple by 2050. It affects everyone it touches, not only those diagnosed with the disease, but also the friends and family around them. And, unfortunately there is currently no cure.
There is, however, some positive emerging news about how to better cope with Alzheimer’s, even while research toward a cure or prevention continues. Caregivers, neurologists and therapists are discovering that engagement in the arts or other creative activities can diminish the symptoms of dementia. This is a hopeful new story that needs telling and retelling—and this is why we need your help!
I Remember Better When I Paint is a documentary film, narrated by Olivia de Havilland, that demonstrates how creative arts can enhance the quality of life for people with serious memory impairment. It was inspired by the true life stories of people with Alzheimer’s who experienced the renewing power of creative engagement. One such person was the artist Hilgos, who, after being afflicted, withdrew from almost all social interactions. The film takes us through her journey as she picks up a brush, begins to paint again—and recovers a sense of identity and fulfillment. Similarly, Yasmin Aga Khan shares the story of her mother, Rita Hayworth, who had Alzheimer’s and found new peace of mind as she painted.
The film visits three major museums – The Louvre in Paris, The Art Institute in Chicago and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.—where programs focusing on Alzheimer’s and the Arts have been launched. It also visits care centers and neurologists’ offices and laboratories– where specialists explain how parts of the brain are often spared when Alzheimer’s sets in—and how activities that involve those neurological pathways can improve the quality of life for those who have been impaired. You can see a short trailer for the film at: www.irememberbetterwhenipaint.com.
As the toll of Alzheimer’s rises, and as researchers continue to search for ways to cure or prevent it, we want to do everything possible to help those who are ALREADY LIVING WITH IT–and their caregivers– to improve the quality of their lives. That is why we have developed a plan to distribute the film “I Remember When I Paint” on a broad nationwide basis. For the film is not just another story; it is a powerful case study, showing how life can take on new meanings despite the impact of Alzheimer’s.
We know that people who have seen the film have changed their perceptions. We have shared the film through community screenings in such places as The Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Northwestern University School of Medicine, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, New York University, the Phillips Collection, and in foreign venues from Paris to Dublin to Hong Kong, to name just a few. The film has also been broadcast on television in local markets including New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC. Thousands have visited our website, purchased the film and followed our twitter “Alz chats.” We just heard this week, for example, from a woman who launched a creative arts program in her care facilities after viewing the film. Her account testifies to the film’s impact. illustrating the ripple effect that the film can create among those who have a chance to see it.
“It changes the way people look at Alzheimer’s,” says Marc Wortmann, CEO of Alzheimer’s Disease International. The film “shows a new pathway for engaging with a loved one you thought was lost…” comments Gail Sheehy, author and journalist. Yes, the feedback has been wonderful. But we feel we have only scratched the surface—and that an enormous potential audience can be reached through a concerted effort to bring the film to a nationwide television audience—even as we work to engage audiences through an expanded program of local screenings and workshops.
I Remember Better When I Paint has been widely described as an important educational resource, a set of personal stories that inspires people to action. But more people need to see the film. With your generous donation to the HILGOS Foundation you can help expand our educational project to include millions of families who are struggling every day to provide a better life for those dealing with Alzheimer’s. Every contribution, no matter the amount, will be dedicated to the further distribution of the film, raising new awareness and generating new hope.
Please help us achieve the following goals:
Goal 1 – $50,000 to air the film on nationwide television—we have been assured that sponsorship at this level will take the film into hundreds of thousands of households all across the country.
Goal 2 – $25,000 for educational outreach in local communities where top professional expertise can be shared, along with the film, in workshop and discussion settings.
We encourage those who are able to make donations of $500 or $1000—or more—to do so–helping us to reach these goals more quickly. But again, we emphasize that every donation—of whatever size—will help to change the stereotypical, hopeless image of Alzheimer’s. We also encourage you to send this letter to others who will want to help. Donations can be made directly online, through www.hilgos.org, or by check, made payable to The Hilgos Foundation, and addressed to the following:
The Hilgos Foundation
406 Woodland Road
Highland Park, Illinois 60035
We need not passively surrender to Alzheimer’s. We can do something—you can do something—right now—that will bring new hope to people who have encountered –or will encounter—Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
We thank you in advance for partnering with us in this effort.
Berna G. Huebner
President and Founder
Co-Director, I Remember Better When I Paint”
Yes I want to support the educational project for I Remember Better When I Paint. Donate online at www.hilgos.org.
111 East 85th Street, Apt. 28-E
New York, New York 10028
The Hilgos Foundation
406 Woodland Road
Highland Park, Illinois 60035
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