Mark Metcalf
Moving Pictures

I Remember Better When I Paint

By - May 25th, 2010 04:00 am
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Hilgos. Photo courtesy of the Hilgos Foundation

Alzheimer’s is a terrifying disease. You hear again and again when someone’s father, mother or a friend has been diagnosed with an early onset form of the disease, that “they aren’t the person they used to be.”

Often it’s assumed that they are suffering from “dementia,” a word that conjures up thick-walled institutions, filled with people who have become a danger to themselves and to others, people who are no longer people but have become animals, people for whom we can do nothing.

As is pointed out several times in the short documentary I Remember Better When I Paint, when someone we love and care for is stricken with Alzheimer’s, the tendency is approach it from a negative standpoint. It is always hopeless and it is always, “they can’t do this,” or “they don’t do that.”

What doctors and researchers, people who have become intimate with the disease and the producers and directors of this film have realized is that if you can turn that perception around and focus on what they can do and remember that they are living and not simply dying, you can make a world of difference in their lives and you can change your own. And you don’t have to be foolishly optimistic to do it.

I Remember Better When I Paint focuses on the last few years in the life of the painter Hilgos. She had been a painter all her life until she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and it was decided that she no longer served any purpose, that she could not function. She became another piece of meat taking up space in a nursing home, until one day her daughter asked her if she wouldn’t like to paint again. Surprisingly she answered, “Yes… I remember better when I paint.”

Research has found that people with the disease do in fact remember better —  that they experience a greater sense of well being, of being connected, even of joy or pleasure, an actual sense of being themselves — when they are involved in a creative pursuit, whether it be painting, music, sculpture, poetry or dance.

The act of creation is an act of liberation. And if the caregivers, the lovers of people affected by Alzheimer’s can remember that, can even institutionalize that simple idea, that creativity can free you, there could be a revolution in the care of the elderly, of the people who have forgotten, and whom we too easily forget.

I Remember Better When I Paint
will play a special one-night-only Wisconsin premiere on Thursday, May 27th at the UWM Union Ballroom. This is a FREE screening so please RSVP by contacting smbraden@uwm.edu or 414 229 2729, seating is limited.

Categories: Movies

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