Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

New England Regional Art Museum (NERAM) volunteer and former nurse Rose McCarthy has always cared about and for people, particularly the elderly.

As a graduate of the Dementia Care Course at UTAS, Rose has a strong interest working with dementia sufferers and is one of the volunteers behind the innovative Remembering with Art program at NERAM.

“For people living with dementia, pleasure can be ‘momentary’ and their ability to draw on their cognitive capacity fluctuates,” said Rose.

“As part of the program at NERAM, we try to give pleasure to our participants so their time with us at the gallery is a comfortable, happy and a reassuring experience.”

The monthly Remembering with Art program, whose participants come from local care homes, has recently received a significant boost thanks to a generous donation from NESST – a non-profit community-based organisation that has supported programs for frail aged people in the New England area for more than 30 years.

“The Board of the New England Sector Support Team (NESST) recently approved a donation of $10,000 to the NERAM Remembering with Art project,” said NESST chairperson, Julia McCosker.

“NESST is very pleased to donate the money to such an innovative program, which encourages people living with dementia to continue to participate in enjoyable, artistic pursuits, within their community.

“The Board was very impressed that NERAM put time and effort into this program and believes the donation will assist in its continued success and expansion.”

According to Rose, every person living with dementia is experiencing their dementia in a different way and the volunteers apply no “standard” for success when it comes to the program.

“A smile and a relaxed composure or even moments of animation may be our goal for someone one day whereas in previous sessions they may have contributed significantly to the group conversation,” said Rose.

“Like most people our participants enjoy the beauty of the gallery and the artworks and we endeavour to work towards making the gallery environment a dementia friendly space.”

“We hope it impacts positively on those who participate. Ideally our group numbers are small (maximum six people living with dementia) so all the participants are given ample time and the opportunity to respond individually. Our participants enjoy their time at the gallery, most of them verbalising their happiness at being involved.”

NERAM’s education officer Lucy Wall and local volunteers of the Remembering with Art program recently had a visit from a National Gallery of Australia representative who delivered a training program from its Art and Dementia pilot program.

The training involved introducing new volunteers to the program in the hope it will be expanded at
NERAM in the future.

Rose said she was very excited about the $10,000 donation from NESST and hoped the money would help enhance participants’ experience in the program.

“Hopefully NERAM will be able to purchase ‘super’ comfortable gallery specific stackable chairs with arms on them, to enhance not only the participants comfort whilst enjoying art and conversation, but also to positively contribute to their sense of autonomy in being more easily able to lower themselves into and get themselves out of them,” said Rose.

“I believe the success of this program is measured by the sum of each individual’s personal experience, and through this donation we hope to confidently expand that benefit to more people within our community whose lives are impacted by dementia.”

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer or know someone who may benefit from being part of the program, contact NERAM on (02) 6772 5255.

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