This is a story about approaching Alzheimer’s through a wellness orientation. And, in my mother’s case, it is about an artist regaining the confidence to sign her paintings and exhibit her work. It is about people regaining their sense of identity, instead of progressively losing it. My mother´s determined spirit, exuberance, and an insistence on living, can be seen in her paintings. With the guidance from art students, her creativity has taught others that we must not dismiss, or underestimate, what lies just below the surface.
Rhythm, sound, colors and shapes activate human emotion. In every culture and throughout history, our 5 senses have served as vehicles to connect and relate to the world: as our receptors, helping us internalize as well as “emitters”, transmitting, creating from and materializing our emotions. We have known, even before inventing it or learning it, that language is not the only way to communicate nor is it always the most effective; as it is not always the most spontaneous or honest.
Ever since my mother fell ill, we started spoiling her more. The affection and the tenderness was what connected us the most. She was, for example, a very simple woman who had never been to the hairdresser’s, so we started to take her there and we discovered that she really liked it. She even requested it, using certain gestures. Sometimes I’d even give her a lipstick so that she could do herself up; and, truth is, she wasn’t bad at it at all.
I especially connect with my father when I watch him fly a radio-controlled mini-helicopter that I gave him.
My father and I shared many years building and flying radio-control airplanes — gliders to be precise. I grew up under the strong influence of his passion for aviation and I remember that when I was a kid, there was nothing better than to go the airport, where my dad worked, to watch him do his job. Getting into the cabins of the planes with him, look at and touch the countless numbers of buttons and levers, communications with the control towers when we’d move these huge planes from one ramp to the other…the things that make up the daily life of an airport. During the work week my dad was the head of maintenance, and during the weekend, he’d distribute his time between the family, construction and flight. This he did with meticulous dedication, year after year. Continue reading
Although my mother and I love each other very much, our relationship was never an easy one. However, her illness has gifted us a closer and much more loving bond, we are constantly looking into each others eyes, I massage her legs, stroke her hands and face, she raises her face to me to be kissed all the time. All of these things are wonderful of course but what is the most heart lifting for me is the look on her face when I arrive, her whole face lights up and she gets very emotional, I always greet her with a loving embrace and kisses which we both enjoy. We communicate best by talking of the past, I involve myself with activities in the care home which include her also; baking, cooking, painting, charity walks, weekend events, anything that stimulates and engages her. I also take her for long walks to the park and to the supermarket and the local shop to buy her favourite mint ice-cream and occasionally we walk down to the local church. Continue reading
As long as I remember, my mother and I danced to the music of Tito Puente, Celia Cruz and Poncho Sanchez and the salsa rhythm helped us connect throughout her journey. As her Alzheimer’s progressed, these Latin salsa icons helped even motivate my mother do things she didn’t want to do, like shower.