Program Helps Dementia Patients Create

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Paintings by participants of the mneme therapy program are on exhibit at the Sid Jacobson JCC
Paintings by participants of the mneme therapy program are on exhibit at the Sid Jacobson JCC

The Sid Jacobson JCC in East Hills plans to include paintings by a unique group of artists in its annual “Auction for Excellence,” Thursday, March 19 at the Glen Oaks Club.

The paintings were done by participants in a program of artistic expression that is part of the JCC’s Friendship Circle Adult Day Program. The program serves adults in their 40s to their 90s, all of whom have some form of dementia, including strokes, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s.

The paintings are an outgrowth of a relatively new therapy, called mneme [pronounced “nemma”] therapy, which enables dementia patients to develop their creativity in a form of artistic expression.

For many of the patients, who have never had any art training, the paintings are both a true revelation, while helping them develop self-esteem and greater sensitivity to the world around them. The paintings are currently on display in the JCC lobby.

The JCC staff believes that the program is the only one on Long Island to implement mneme therapy, the creation of a Florida artist, Noell Hammer, who had worked with Alzheimer’s patients in a support group and founded a non-profit agency, Art Without Boundaries Association (AWBA) in 2000. AWBA promotes mneme therapy throughout the country by training instructors and using them to introduce the therapy in mental health settings.

“Mneme therapy uses the arts in an instructional way to stimulate the brain’s neuroplasticity,” said Connie Wasserman, LCSW, associate executive director of the JCC. “The goal is to find new ways to stimulate the brain to adapt and to rebuild lost functions.”

Participants in the Adult Day Program spend about one hour a day in mneme therapy, guided by a trained mneme instructor.
“The exercises performed in connection with the training stimulate the creative part of the individual’s brain,” added Wasserman.

The JCC Adult Day Program and a companion program, the Youth Onset program, which serves men and women from their 30s to 50s, is open to the community. The program meets daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, contact Connie Wasserman at cwasserman@sjcc.org or 516-484-1545, ext. 135.

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