Sunday, February 27, 2011

February Wrap-up

Wow! The month of February really zoomed by- especially since February started out in the deep freeze here in North Texas-cancellations and rescheduled classes wreaked  havoc on my schedule early this month so I am keeping my fingers crossed that our frozen precipitation is over!
The fountain at Autumn Leaves in Garland

I am very excited about several of the new classes that I started teaching this month- they have been a lot of fun and very well received by the residents.  In addition to the new Wine Tasting classes and Wine and Watercolor classes, we started our new Latin Rhythm classes (which I plan to discuss in a separate post), Book Club for Memory Care and Watercolor for Memory Care.

We also have had a great time in our Arts and Crafts classes this month.  From Spring Wreaths and Topiaries,  Cute Valentine Puppy Door Hangers to Glass Gem mosaic pots, boxes and frames- my students have been very creative and prolific this month!  I love how art and craft classes allow everyone to really show their individuality and creativity.

Here are just a few photos of my students and our finished projects from February:

Working on our Door Hangers at Atria in Carrollton
Having fun designing their puppy faces!
Puppy Love Door Hanger

Mosaic Frames from Chambrel at Club Hill

Ethna working on her jewelry box
Ethna's finished product
Kris working on her mosaic box in her signature color- pink!

Kris' finished masterpiece!
Beverly admiring her handiwork!

Beverly's very pretty and VERY heavy finished piece
Inez working away on her design
Starting our Gem Mosaic Pots at Meadowstone
More pots at Preston Place
Glass Gem Mosaic Pots

For the month of March, I have some fun projects planned for St Patrick's Day and the coming of Spring.  We are going to start some garden projects later in March and will be planting early Spring flowers and veggies.  Some of the art projects we will be work on in March includes St Patty's Day door decorations, Tied Fabric Wreaths and more Fabric Topiaries.  We'll give Batik fabric banners a try as well.  I also have a paper bead project and  Polymer clay projects I am looking forward to starting as well.  Have never worked with Polymer clay so I am excited to give that a try in March and report on our progress.

Hope you have had a great month!  Looking forward to Shamrocks and blooming gardens in the coming month!

Till next time- Have fun and stay creative!


Sunday, February 20, 2011

10 Steps for Teaching Watercolor to Memory Care Residents

I  recently started a new Watercolor class for my residents at Silverado Senior Living in Plano,TX.  My students at Silverado are all in different stages of Alzheimer's and have different ability levels and attention spans, so I was not sure how well they would be able to work in Watercolor or if they would end up with a good finished piece.

I find that Memory Care classes require more pre-planning than my other classes and I actually complete the first five steps of this list before beginning the class with my students.

10 Steps for teaching a Watercolor Class to Memory Care Residents:

1.  Enlarge a photo or choose a large picture from an art book that does not have a lot of fine detail.  I enlarged  this photo that I had taken in Washington state of a field of daffodils and mounted it on black card stock so they could easily see the photo.
Early Spring in Washington State

2.  Paint a sample watercolor painting for students to refer to- nothing too fancy- to show them what their finished picture can look like.  I used a combination of watercolor, color pencils and ink for my painting.
Sample painting

3. Sketch out the basic scene on each student's sheet.  

4. Color code the different areas of the painting because these additional instructions are very helpful.  I found this really made it easier for my students to follow my directions as we painted each section, so will include these prompts on everyone's drawing in the future.

5.  Use foam board or thin plywood scrap as a backer for the watercolor paper, and tape everyone's paper to the board before class.

6.  Set up each individual's watercolor paints, brushes, water and palette for them.  Show them the sample painting so that they can see what the final product is supposed to look like and make sure they do not jump ahead before they are shown what the next step should be.

7.  Give step by step instructions and demonstrate each step so that students can see what you are asking them to do.  Our project was a "wet on wet" painting, so I showed them how to do a wash with clear water using a  large flat brush and made sure they did not soak the paper with too much excess water.  As I gave them  each new instruction, I demonstrated each step as we went along.

8.  Show students how to pick up color from the paint palette and how to mix paint colors on the palette to create custom colors.  We painted each section separately, painting the sky first at the top, moved to lower areas next so that each section would have time to dry a little so the colors would not all run together.
Getting Started

9.  Assist students if they have questions, but allow them to choose their own color schemes if they do not want to follow the prompts- and have each person complete each section on their own if possible-after all there is no right or wrong way to create art!

Making Good Progress on our Paintings!

Adding More Details
Creating One-of-a-kind Masterpieces!

10. After all the sections of the paintings are finished by your students, you can define a few details with ink or pencil  if you choose.  I drew in a few details with ink and it really made a huge difference in the final painting- and all my ladies were very pleased with their final results.  Always make sure to have them sign their names on their paintings so that they can show their families what they have accomplished.

I was very pleased at the results of our first class.  The ladies were engaged for over an hour and really enjoyed creating their own masterpieces.  I do a lot of art and gardening classes with Memory Care residents, and feel this was one of the best activities we have completed together to date and really look forward to doing another watercolor project with them next month,

Till next time- Stay Engaged in Life and Be Creative!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Recent Ezine Article

As an Activities Professional  working with Seniors living in Memory care residences, Assisted Living and Independent Living residences  I am always looking for age appropriate ideas and resources  to use when creating  unique projects for my students to enjoy.   I have not been able to find many sources specifically targeted to people working with older adults- especially older adults with Alzheimer’s or dementia living in Memory Care Residences - and that is why I have decided to share my process, projects and tutorials with other Activity Professionals and people interested in working with Elders.

The lack of information surprised me since the Senior market is the fastest growing segment of our population due to Baby Boomer s beginning to retire in large numbers.   And the Baby Boomers have already changed the Senior Care industry significantly because they are demanding better services for their aged parents.   The Boomer generation is expected to live longer, be active longer and have a better lifestyle than any retirees before them.  And they are going to expect engaging and interesting creative activities to participate in as they grow older and begin to need more assistance in their day to day lives.

As I have searched websites, blogs and books, I’ve found a lot of great information about childrens creative projects  and wonderful arts and crafts projects for adults as well-  but many adult focused projects are too difficult for Seniors to complete without  a lot of assistance- especially Seniors with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.   And since 1 out of every 8 Baby Boomers is expected to develop Alzheimer’s as they age, appropriate activities for this segment of the population is going to become ever more important in the future.

So how do you go about creating age appropriate projects suitable for students that are both interesting for Independent Seniors and can also be completed by Memory Care Residents as well?  

I suggest you create several versions of your project so the project is appropriate for different ability levels of your elder population.  This may just mean doing additional prep work- using pre-cut materials, templates or simplified designs for your Memory Care students.   A good portion of my art projects are adapted from crafts originally meant for children- but I only choose projects that look appropriate for adults.   Craft sticks, tempera paint and Elmer’s glue just won’t do!   When adapting adult crafts always consider making small changes so that less dexterous older hands or Memory Care residents will be able to complete them with minimal assistance.   

 For example:   I recently taught a class for Independent Seniors and we were making hand knotted fabric wreaths.  Although it seemed like a very simple project to me (I had pre-cut the fabric strip in advance-)and had completed it without any problems, many of my students tired quickly because they had severe arthritis in their hands and it was difficult for them to tie lots of knots.  My solution was a modified fabric wreath design where students had the choice of creating the tied knot wreath or a wrapped fabric wreath using the same fabric strips.  With this slight modification everyone was able to participate and create a nice looking wreath for their door.

A Few Rules of Thumb for creating projects for Memory Care Residents:

When creating activities for seniors who have Alzheimer's or dementia it is important to make sure the activity is simple with easy-to-follow steps and directions, but at the same time yields a nice looking final product that the student can be proud of.  

Projects should be completed within 30 minutes to an hour.  A 30-45 minute project is ideal for this segment of the Senior population because attention spans are short and occasionally residents can become agitated or confused- even physically combative when they are stressed. 

Don’t be too ambitious with your art project.  Allow each resident to complete their own project with as little assistance as possible.  If you are doing 90% of the work- the project was either not executed properly or not appropriate for the population.  

Always consider hand strength and dexterity, hand/eye coordination- and sometimes even the ability to hear instructions clearly when working with Seniors.  

Families like to see what their parents have been doing while they have been away-and they like to see that their loved one has been engaged and stimulated in mind and body- so make sure your residents go home with a completed project.

Next time we will talk more about the difference between projects for Assisted Living Residents and Independent Seniors.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

February Fun with Watercolor and Eggshell Mosaics Part 2

I started working with watercolor and other media with my residents in January and we have been having a good time learning some basic techniques.  In January I introduced my new evening Wine and Watercolor classes for Independent Seniors and have also been teaching beginning watercolor painting in my Arts classes in Memory Care and Assisted Living.

Watercolor is an easy medium for almost any ability level to work with- and even Seniors in Memory Care can work independently to create their own unique work of art.  Recently my Independent Seniors have been working on a multimedia project using watercolor for the background, acrylic for part of the design and eggshell mosaic leaves that were created by painting eggshells and using Modge Podge to apply to black card stock.  Please take a look at my January post to see photos and examples of creating the eggshell mosaics.

This particular project takes at least 3 sessions to complete, but the end results are really nice.

Students at Chambrell Hill working on their paintings
Our finished Eggshell Mosaic

Eggshell Mosaic Close up      

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Creating Appropriate Activities for Seniors

The main purpose of my blog is to share my ideas and favorite resources with other people working with Seniors in the Engagement field- and hopefully this will become a two-way conversation!   I have not been able to find many sources specifically targeted to people working with older adults in Assisted Living, Independent Senior Communities or Memory Care Residences. 

The lack of information surprised me since the Senior market is the fastest growing segment of our population due to the Baby Boomer generation entering retirement age.  I find a lot of great blogs out there with lots of creative projects, but many of them are "kid centric" or  the projects are just too difficult to complete without assistance. 

Many times people ask me where I get my ideas for the art projects and other activities I provide for my Engagement classes.  Honestly, I'm constantly looking for good ideas- other people's blogs, websites and I am a big fan of Half Price Books here in Dallas.  Once I find a good project, I put my own twist on the ideas to make them appropriate for my students.  I am always trying out new projects- looking for ways to make them more "participant friendly" for my clientele.

A good portion of the arts and crafts projects I create for my students are adapted from crafts originally meant for children. Many adult crafts have to be simplified in order for older hands or Memory Care residents to be able to complete them with minimal assistance.  Even crafts appropriate for Independent Seniors require me to do a good amount of prep work so we can complete our projects within the designated 1- 1 1/2 hours class time.

When creating activities for Seniors who have Alzheimer's or dementia it is important to keep in mind that the activity needs to be fairly simple with easy-to-follow steps and directions.  I have found it best to complete projects within 30 minutes to an hour.  It seems that a 30-45 minute project is ideal for this segment of the Senior population because attention spans are short and occasionally these residents become agitated or confused- even physically combative when they are stressed. 

Many times I am able to do the same project with both Independent Seniors and Memory Care Residents by changing the project slightly.  But even with Independent Seniors, I have to consider hand strength and dexterity, hand/eye coordination- and sometimes even the ability to hear instructions clearly. 

For example, in January this year we put together Photo calendars and decorated them like scrapbook pages.

2011 Photo Calendars:
Photo Calendar Example

  • Independent Living residents were asked to bring their own pictures and were encouraged to customize each month with stickers and other embellishments and to note loved one's birthdays, seasonal holidays and important anniversaries or dates to remember.  
  • For my Memory Care students, I supplied  a variety of photos appropriate for each month, and limited the amount of personalization we would do.  I helped with some of the embellishment of the pages. Paricipants were encouraged to choose the photos they liked and glue them into the calendar- independently if possible.  I shared stories of where and when the pictures had been taken, and they really enjoyed browsing through and choosing their photos.

Even though we started with the same basic project,  everyone ended up with a totally unique finished piece that showed their individual personalities- that they could proudly share with family and friends.  And by making slight changes to the project, it was enjoyed by both Independent Seniors and Memory Care Residents alike.

Since budgets are very tight these days, I will share more on budgeting and the cost of projects in a future blog.

Till then- Stay Warm ( it's 19 degrees this afternoon in Dallas) and Stay Creative!