Memories in the Making allows patients with dementia to share memories 

  • Courtesy Memories in the Making program
The process of creating artwork can inspire powerful emotion, and powerful emotion can evoke powerful memories. What is true for all artists is also true for those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, many of whom can unlock long-buried memories by picking up a paintbrush and setting to work.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Memories in the Making program was built on that idea, and now serves locations all over the country, including many right here in Colorado Springs. Volunteers facilitate artistic exploration in dementia patients, and — according to longtime MIM volunteer and hospice worker Nancy Oxenhandler — bear witness to incredible moments of clarity.

“[It] goes way below the surface of what we see when we meet somebody who has Alzheimer’s. It brings back that person for a short period of time.”

Oxenhandler says that dementia “robs loved ones of the person they loved,” leaving people unable to recall memories that were once important not only to them, but to their families and friends. By unlocking these memories through art, the MIM program can give families something tangible to hold on to, evidence that the memory still exists.

Oxenhandler, in addition to being part of the MIM program, is on the event committee for
Living Memories, an exhibition of the artwork that has come from this poignant experience.

Drawing from six local MIM communities, Living Memories will display 24 pieces of artwork alongside bios of the artists responsible, so attendees may gain some insight into the people who created it. “It’s an educational tool for the public,” Oxenhandler says, “and I think it will be very eye-opening to them.”

In the past, MIM artwork has been displayed at annual galas, but Oxenhandler says this year they wanted to scale back, to bring the focus to the art. By staging the show in a library, a wide variety of people will be able to access the work, enjoy it and benefit from it.

The opening reception, featuring music from the Colorado Springs Children’s Chorale’s
Summit Ensemble, will be the first opportunity to see this juried work. MIM volunteers will be on hand to discuss the program, its participants, and how to bring it to memory care facilities where it isn’t already offered.

Oxenhandler believes her hard work, and the work of other volunteers, is worth the reward, worth the opportunity to brighten someone’s day. “Those memories are fleeting,” she says, “but even for the moment that you’re interacting with that person, and they can resurrect some of their memories — it’s pretty magical.”


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