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Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project connects

Dementia is a Person Leaf Project
Brae Honor and Cynthia Hoogstraten painted leaves for the Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project.

Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project has helped create connection for families to their loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s through the painting of leaves.

Kay Shelton, Josephina Beckers and Cynthia Hoogstraten have all had close family members or friends with dementia, and they have all seen firsthand the devastating effects the disease can have.

Through their personal experiences the three women collaborated The Leaf Project to exhibit the symbolise and the connection of leaves and people living with dementia.

This weekend Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project exhibition should have opened at Bundaberg Regional Art Galleries, but with the current COVID-19 restrictions in place the art show was not able to be installed, but a video was created by Josephina’s husband Maarten van Bokkelused for the community to view.

An Impression of The Leaf Project . . .

Posted by Maarten van Bokkel on Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Josephina is an art therapist and she said the simple action of placing paint on leaves had created a sense of connections between elderly residents in nursing homes.

“I find it is similar to music, when they are doing the activity it activates a sense of connection within them – it is much more than placing paint on a leaf,” she said.

“It gives people with dementia a sense of community, it may be just paint on a leaf, but when you put all the leaves together and they are connected – that is a wonderful moment and you can see it in the faces of the participants they feel connected too.”

Dementia is a Person Leaf Project
Cynthia Hoogstraten’s father Henk had dementia and she said there was a similarity with the symbolism between leaves and people with the disease. Henk had never painted before but the activity sparked something in him and gave the pair connection.

Cynthia’s father Henk had dementia and she said there was a similarity with the symbolism between leaves and people with the disease.

She said just as leaves turns into a different colour and character as they hold onto the tree for some time before finally drifting to the ground to rest, she found this was similar to the experience she had with her father as the disease took hold.

“I started painting with my father in 2015, he had never painted before, but I found he engaged, and we had this wonderful connection with it and away he went with painting,” Cynthia said.

“The moments we spent painting helped to start a conversation, it gave validation and acknowledgement, rather than just sitting in a room at a nursing home not knowing how to communicate.

“It activates connections in their brains, and it shows the importance of the individualism in every person who has dementia.”

Cynthia said by choosing to paint leaves for the Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project it was ideal for both the simplicity and the symbolism.

She said people could relate to leaves in one way or another, and had memories of leaves that helped them connect, while the leaf was a perfect canvas size that helped them stay engaged through the painting activity.

Hundreds of leaves have been painted by people with dementia or Alzheimer’s, their carers and family members, for the Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project.

To find out more or to become involved in the Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project click here.

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  1. Thank you Emma for a heartfelt article. It gives me goosebumps each time I view the video. Brae will be pleased to see his photo and I will print out a copy for him to send to him. I am not sure that you realise he is Waye Honour's father. I had some wonderful one on one times with him. He knew my Dad and at times I would pop in I would say “hi Brae, it's Cynthia Henk's daughter.” This would spark great conversations and even Wayne knew my Dad as a young boy and he looked up to him.

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