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Alzheimer's patients use new medium of communication

Date: 11/4/2008

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD Those diagnosed with Alzheimer's eventually lose their ability to communicate through language and writing and perform other day-to-day activities. However, the Alzheimer's Association has found a medium to help those with Alzheimer's reconnect with loved ones: art.

The Alzheimer's Association in conjunction with the YMCA of Greater Westfield has been offering the Memories in the Making (MIM) program at Mercy Adult Day Center, which allows patients with the disease to express themselves through watercolor painting.

On Dec. 5, approximately 50 paintings from those in the program as well as some donated by local artists and Westfield State College (WSC) alumni will be auctioned during the MIM Art Auction at WSC. Proceeds will be split evenly between the Alzheimer's Association and the YMCA of Greater Westfield.

"Many of the artists' paintings have been on display in Westfield and surrounding towns in a traveling art show," Rosann Scalise, director of program operations for the YMCA of Greater Westfield, said. "The show has provided an opportunity for creating greater awareness that the disease does not define the people who have it.

"They are still able to make meaningful, beautiful contributions to society through their art," she continued. "The art auction aims to further increase this awareness and to recognize the vehicle of art as a means to humanize and enrich our lives. It will bring together a diverse grouping of people, providing an avenue for appreciation of the talents and contributions of all people, regardless of age, gender or health status."

Virginia Sinkoski, coordinator of community programs for the Alzheimer's Association, called the artwork of those within the MIM program "inspiring."

"To see the colors and the creativity and the artistry, [it] shows that they're still very, very much in touch with their feelings and emotions and that part of the brain is never destroyed because of the disease," she said.

Proceeds from the auction will be used to fund the Alzheimer's Association's Respite Fund and Family Education/Support Services and the YMCA's Partners with Youth scholarship program.

Sinkoski explained that funds from the auction will greatly help the Respite Fund because the program relies strictly on donations. A caregiver can receive up to $500 from the fund and it can be used for a home care provider, adult companion, adult day program or facility-based respite program, Sinkoski explained.

"Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's is really a long, long day for them and they need to build in time for their own health for respite so that they can continue with the care giving," she said.

The MIM Art Auction will take place on Dec. 5 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at WSC.

Student artists, ages nine to 18, who are also members of the YMCA can donate their work for the event's exhibition but cannot be donated for the auction. Submissions must be received by Nov. 14. For further information or to submit a piece of artwork, contact Scalise at 568-8631 or at

Tickets for the MIM Art Auction are $25 per person and the ticket price will be refunded if a painting is purchased. Tickets are available at the YMCA of Greater Westfield, 67 Court St., or at the Alzheimer's Association, 264 Cottage St.

For more information about the Alzheimer's Association or to preview the paintings go to