During the Femme City - Craft workshops, we were approached by Ms Christine, coordinator from ADFM (Alzheimer's Disease Foundation Malaysia)'s Day Centre @Jalan Bukit Raja, Taman Seputih (housing area opposite Mid Valley) . She had asked us to help teach & give ideas on art & craft activities that the Alzheimer's patients & care-givers can do to keep them busy & stimulated.
Not familiar with art therapy and the Alzheimer's Disease, we did some research and decided on these :
Aug 27, 2010 :
I met up with ACG volunteer, Haslinda & her two kids who came along to learn & experience volunteerism. So we all sat on long tables, as I explained what we needed to do.
Not knowing the level of each patient, we decided to get them to draw simple symbols like spirals, concentric squares, lines, wriggles on art block paper in single colour, encouraging them to doodle - to fill up the blank space, but only a few did. Not all the patients could participate in this activity as some are at a more advanced stage.
But then again, people from their era were never encouraged to doodle. It was considered a waste of time & destructive behaviour, a kind of vandalism. I, myself can't doodle, unless forced to.. Ha ha.. So we proceeded to the next activity!Papier mache boxes
Stage 1 - To tear newspaper strips & paste on to the box. Leave it to dry.
Simple enough, we thought. The care-givers taught the patients how to tear the newspapers. They had fun tearing it & stuffing in a box for later use. Then we showed them how to paste each strip on to the box, careful to push in the edges so that it will be smooth. Took some time... Some didnt like the glue on their fingers.. Some lost interest.. In the end, it was the care-givers who did most of the pasting. It took about 2 hours. Then it was time for them all to have afternoon tea b4 the taxis & families came to take them home.
Aug 30, 2010 :
Since the centre was for day-care (opened only on working days), I could only come when I had an off-day while everyone else was working. It was a weekend from Aug 28-29, so no pasting was done on the boxes. So to save time, I just gave instructions on how to proceed by themselves on Stage 2 : To paint on the papier mache boxes. Art materials & paints were donated by ACG.
We did this, instead:
Recycled card circles with thread border
Step 1 : Draw circles around a plastic bottle abt 4cm diameter.
Step 2 : Cut notches (easier) / sharp peaks (nicer but more tedious) all around the circle
Step 3 : String a thread across on notch & draw it across the card to another notch, 6-8 notches away. Wrap it behind the card & through the next notch. Repeat until you have a border of thread criss-crossing around the card.
The care-givers drew the circle. The patients cut the circle with a scissors. The care-givers cut the sharp peaks, the patients easier way - snipped the notches equally apart (well, almost..). Threading the notches were more difficult as the patients had to remember where to draw the thread & where to insert the thread. So, a seemingly simple activity became difficult. In the end, the care-givers helped finish off the threading.
The activities, I realised were not only therapeutic for the patients but I believe more so for the care-givers (whether they were volunteers or paid maids).
Everyone is human, and to be taking care of these patients day-in, day-out ..24/7 is very taxing. Half way through our activity, one had to go to the ladies, another wondered off. But no worries, the gate is locked. They soon found her in one of the rooms.. Another one kept asking for her daughter & became agitated, they had to find ways to convince her that her daughter's coming (although it was many hours more b4 leaving time).
One has to have a level of caring & strength and a way to 'handle' the strain. Some of the patients have been like that for years & the maids have taken care of them for years too.
Being among them in the two short days, I feel an admiration for every care-giver there. The patients are old & fragile, sometimes disorientated, sometimes difficult. But these care-givers, took it in their stride.
They made jokes, they even encouraged everyone to sing the oldies, they did their job as well as they could... volunteers, centre helpers, patient's maids..
WE WISH EVERYONE WELL!