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Alzheimer's Patients Benefit from New Detroit Institute Arts Pilot Program "Minds on Art"

DETROIT, MI.- The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) launched a pilot program today that provides stimulating art experiences for people with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers. The program, called Minds on Art, is the first of its kind in Michigan, and is designed to spur mental stimulation, communication and social engagement and to lessen the isolation that comes with the disease.

Minds on Art consists of a series of museum visits, each beginning with a gallery discussion followed by an art-making activity. The program is carefully facilitated to exercise cognitive processes while providing a recreational “day out” for both patient and caregiver.

Prior to initiating Minds on Art, DIA teaching volunteers and staff participated in sensitivity and techniques training provided by the Michigan Alzheimer’s Association (MAA). The program is a partnership with the MAA, where patients and caregivers from today’s session attend a weekly social group in Southfield.

“Great art can evoke strong feelings and spark conversations even among those who struggle to communicate,” said Susan Troia, DIA program manager. “For patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, art can be the key to temporarily unlock the mind from the chains of these diseases. Something in a work of art can jog a memory, stir an emotion or start a dialogue.”

Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disorder that may result in memory loss, impaired judgment, disorientation, personality change, difficulty in learning and loss of language skills. There is no known cure. People with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are often isolated and have few opportunities to interact socially or remain involved in their community. The disease also can take a significant toll on caregivers.

Evaluations of similar programs in New York and Arizona have shown that participation often results in an improved quality of life for both Alzheimer’s sufferers and their caregivers. While the disease itself doesn’t change, the dynamic between family members, the person with Alzheimer’s and other caregivers often does change for the better.

Minds on Art is one of several programs the DIA offers to populations with special needs. The museum has long-standing collaborations with Adult Well-Being Services and the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center. In addition, the DIA has worked with students who are blind or visually impaired, and teaching artists visit Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit weekly to engage young patients in art projects.

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