When Executive Director Michael Rajewski’s father James fell and broke his back last year, helping him choose where to recover, and eventually reside, after surgery was an easy decision. The situation surrounding the transition certainly wasn’t easy at all though. Mike’s mother Marian, aka “Cookie,” also came to live at Presbyterian Manor with her husband.
“Dad was Mom’s primary caregiver, and with her dementia, it only made sense to move her here with him,” Michael said.
Moving to a new location can be difficult for anyone, but especially people who experience the disorientation of dementia.
“Mom has trouble communicating. She often doesn’t know where she is, what time of day it is or what’s going on,” said Michael. “But we found something that brought her a lot of peace. She recently started taking painting classes here. Art was a way for her to express herself without feeling confused and disoriented.”
Mike vaguely remembers his mother painting when she was raising children, but doesn’t recall her taking up the habit in recent years.
“Mom was exceptionally talented at so many things,” he said. She had eight children, so she had to be creative. On the farm, she couldn’t afford to buy artwork, so she made her own. She upholstered furniture, made clothes without using a pattern and even made drapes for the living room.”
Marian’s rediscovered talent was a pleasant surprise for Michael, and she isn’t the only one at Presbyterian Manor with hidden abilities.
“We were pleased to learn that Maintenance Supervisor Roger Riggs is an exceptionally talented painter. He even won some competitions in New York. Not only that, but he was willing to volunteer his time to teach art classes to our residents. He’s been so helpful with getting artists ready for our Art is Ageless program,” said Michael. “He worked with my mother to find what best suited her. She can follow along well, especially if she was modeling him. With Roger working with her, she can replicate what’s on the painting in front of her. It’s really quite remarkable. We tried paint by numbers at first, but that was too structured. She could do much better free-form.”
James is very proud of his wife’s accomplishments, and no doubt the peace she’s found through painting has brought him peace, too.
“He’s very proud of her artwork and glad they were able to do it with her. It’s something he wasn’t able to do as an outlet for her. Now, she can express herself.”