A Fresh Canvas: An Alzheimer's Arts Program

Organization Associated with Program
Hebrew Health Care
West Hartford, Connecticut 06117

Participants in A Fresh Canvas: An Alzheimer’s Arts Program at the Hebrew Home in West Hartford, Connecticut use the creative process involved in artistic self-expression to resolve conflicts and problems, develop interpersonal skills, manage behavior, reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight. Arts programs help people with Alzheimer's disease reach a place beyond their memory loss to extract a remaining part of who they are. Participants can express themselves in a safe environment, and classes provide an outlet for fun, positivism, and constructive engagement in meaningful activity. Clients who participate in art programs seem to recognize other group members and facilitators, transcending memory loss by connecting on a deeper level through artistic expression. Specific activities include: art therapy (painting and drawing), music therapy, and dance and movement therapy. Participating older adults are given the opportunity to exhibit their original work around the community. In spring 2012, the Fresh Canvas art exhibit, “Elder Expressions: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Cherished Memories” was held at the Promenade Gallery. Activities conducted as part of A Fresh Canvas are designed to be outcome-driven and are part of a holistic, abilities-focused approach to care for Alzheimer’s disease. These program activities are an integral component of creating a culture of person-centered care that emphasizes the interests, abilities, tasks of living, and successes of older adults living with Alzheimer’s disease—not just problems and losses. 

Program History

This initiative was launched in 2006 and has served over 400 people since its inception. Program activities are managed by four teaching artists, two staff members, and one volunteer. Staff members are directly involved with the therapy process and lead therapy sessions to ensure that all attendees are engaged in a meaningful way. The staff provide clear examples of the activities for duplication and closely assist those clients who need or request help.

Program Assessments and Evaluations

The program goals include: 1) to enhance the quality of life of clients with memory loss through structured arts programs; 2) to provide meaningful, positive activity for persons who reside in a secure unit; 3) to provide an opportunity for creative expression; and 4) to provide “normalized” activities to improve self-esteem. Written narrative evaluations have demonstrated success for those clients who are directly engaged, as well as those in the larger group setting/unit and their caregivers.

Kinds of creative engagement/ program focus Creation of Original Work, Exhibiting Artwork, Participate in a Class, Participate in a Workshop
Arts Discipline: Dance, Music, Visual Arts
Interdisciplinary Connections: Education
Target Audience: Caregivers - Family, Caregivers - Professional, Frail Older Adults, People with Alzheimer's Disease / Dementia
Adaptive Program Design Hearing Disabilities, Visual Disabilities, Mobility Disabilities, Cognitive Disabilities
Program Setting: Aging Organization (e.g. Senior Center), Healthcare - Long Term Care
Program Service Area: Suburban
Type of Practice: Field Tested Best Practice