Today I have posted a documentary about Mneme Therapy and Noell Hammer, who started Art Without Boundaries and the process of Mneme Therapy
This is an interview with David Smith about the work I do partnering with Nueva Care.
MNEMETHERAPY IMPROVES QUALITY OF LIFE FOR DEMENTIA PATIENT
Evelyn, an 89-year-old Palo Alto woman with Alzheimer’s disease, eagerly looks forward to the weekly visit from her MnemeTherapy instructor. Not only does Evelyn show great enthusiasm during the session, according to her home care aide, but afterward she’s less agitated and in a much better mood. The visit has even been found to lower her blood pressure.
Paulette Gill, a certified MnemeTherapy instructor (pronounced “nemma”) for the last 2 ½ years, follows a little known therapy that works to simulate changes in the brains of patients suffering from dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury, and autism, with the intent of improving their verbal skills, memory, spatial acuity and ability to understand instructions. She accomplishes this through a range of activities, including painting, singing, telling stories, and engaging her patients in various body movements.
“This is not intended as a cure for Alzheimer’s, but rather as a way of improving her quality of life,” said Gill, who works with NuevaCare, a San Mateo-based home care agency specializing in innovative approaches to home care. “MnemeTherapy works by tapping into the patient’s memory. The physical contact is just as important in creating a personal connection.”
While Evelyn has had several health setbacks since Gill started working with her in March, disrupting her mental and emotional stamina, she has seen a definite improvement in her over this time. She’s always happy to see her and generally remains focused during the lengthy session. Ups and downs, said Gill, are common among the population she treats.
MnemeTherapy, named for Mnemosyne, the mythological Greek goddess of memory and mother of the nine Muses known for the music of their song, stimulates the brain through a natural process called neuroplasticity (or brain plasticity). Unlike art therapy, which deals with the psychology of the individual, helping patients express feelings and heal emotionally, MnemeTherapy uses art (and the other disciplines) to stimulate the brain to adapt and rebuild lost function by reorienting and remapping it.
“We’ve been offering MnemeTherapy for the last nine months to our patients and the results, according to family members, have been very gratifying,” said Kamran Nasser, managing director of NuevaCare, which serves the San Francisco Peninsula. “It’s a program that is fun for patients and has been shown to improve cognition and self-esteem, and provide them with a sense of accomplishment.”
Gill, who visits Evelyn weekly for an hour in her home, begins the session sitting face-to-face with her patient. “Warm up” exercises begin with Gill taking Evelyn’s hand and swinging it left to right, past her midsection, as she leads her in the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” This is intended to stimulate word memory, said Gill, a one-time art teacher and home care provider for Alzheimer’s patients. She then asks Evelyn to “high five” her with one hand and then the other, and engages her in a game of “patty cake.” She holds up two fingers and moves them from left to right asking her how many fingers she’s holding. She then flutters her fingers like a butterfly and asks Evelyn to capture it. The therapy seems haphazard but, according to Gill, is tightly scripted with each patient.
Gill brings out a binder with different abstract images, both photographs and paintings, and asks Evelyn to describe them. Looking at a picture of the ocean and swaying palm trees, she asks Evelyn if the photo evokes any memories. Evelyn says it’s where she used to vacation with her family when her children were young.
Next, Evelyn is encouraged to paint her own picture, with Gill lightly guiding Evelyn’s hand. The results are impressive, particularly for an elderly woman who has a difficult time remembering the faces of even long-time friends and family members. Paintings of her work are displayed throughout the house.
A long-time collector of art, Evelyn shows considerable pride in her work.
“Anytime she has guests, she pulls out the scrapbook with her paintings,” said Gill. “It gives her something to talk about and share with family, and her daughters (one of whom is an artist) have been very pleased. She’s proud of her work and she’s having fun.”
below is one of Evelyn's paintings
note; her name is changed to preserve confidentiality.