Linda Martinez, LCSW, in the Department of Geriatrics at NYU Winthrop (left), helps a participant with her painting during the Art Expressions Group.
A caretaker enjoys replicating a sketch of Thomas Jefferson during the class.
On this particular day, a purple and yellow bunny and flowers in a vase were the focal point in the center of the room. These items are intended to spark inspiration among a group of patients and their caretakers who have come for the hour for special activities – drawing and painting.
“Studies have long shown the positive impact that art therapy can have on those with cognitive impairment,” said Linda Martinez, LCSW, in the Department of Geriatrics at NYU Winthrop, who started the Art Expressions group over a year ago.
“It started in my office, but we had so much interest that we outgrew the space and moved to a different location,” added Ms. Martinez, who worked with the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center (ADRC) and a local college student, Sarah Desantis, to get the program off the ground. Now, most Friday afternoons, anywhere from 10 to 15 patients and caregivers meet in the NYU Winthrop Welcome Center at 1300 Franklin Avenue in Garden City to enjoy the company of others and paint, draw or even join in on the coloring craze at this free program.
“These weekly gath- erings provide a way for the patients and their caregivers to connect in a relaxed setting while enjoying an activity that can help to stimulate both the brain and bring out the individuality of each patient,” said Ms. Martinez. “Whether they are viewing or creating art themselves, or simply coloring in a coloring book, it is a form of expression that is rewarding for both the patient and their caregiver.”
Ms. Martinez also recognizes that music therapy is another important avenue through which patients can benefit, and it is her hope to start such a program in the near future. The program would involve the creation of song lists in conjunction with caregivers that would prompt happy and positive memories for the patient.
“The creativity and happiness that both art and music therapy programs can bring could make all the difference in the life of an individual with cognitive impairment,” she said.
For more information about the Art Expressions program, call 1-866-WINTHROP or visit www.winthrop.org.