Raquel Sanchez of Silver Creek Assisted Living learned to paint in the Alzheimer's Association Memories in the Making program

INDEPENDENT PHOTO: JULIA COMNES - Raquel Sanchez's painting, "Garden Snails," was recently sold at an Alzheimer's Association art auction. The Silver Creek resident says learning to paint has helped her with some of her epilepsy and dementia symptoms.
For Silver Creek Assisted Living resident Raquel Sanchez, it's crucial for her to find ways to calm her anxiety.

Sanchez, 64, has epilepsy and dementia. She often gets what she calls "the shakes," in which she loses control over her body and has trouble thinking straight. Calming activities can help keep the shakes at bay.

Sanchez has found respite in the Alzheimer's Association's "Memories in the Making" program that's offered at the Silver Creek memory unit.

The program allows people with dementia and Alzheimer's an opportunity to spend time painting and exploring their artistic ability. Silver Creek has offered the program for about a year, and Sanchez has been a part of it since the beginning.

Last month, one of Sanchez's paintings produced as a part of the Memories in the Making program, "Garden Snails," was selected as one of the 51 paintings to be featured in the Alzheimer Association Oregon Chapter's annual art auction and gala.

"We on the team instantly fell in love with her piece when it arrived," Matt Gannon, the program coordinator for the Alzheimer's Association Oregon Chapter, wrote in an email.

The painting was sold in an auction on May 12, with the proceeds supporting the Alzheimer's Association.

The piece features three snails, painted in vibrant primary colors. Sanchez based the painting off a picture of three snails that she found in a book, which she said reminded her of her three sons.

"Sometimes they drag," she joked about her sons.

She was also drawn to the snails because of her love of gardening.

The description of the painting reads, "Raquel stated that while painting this sweet family of snails it made her think of the days when she has her hands in the soil. Painting the snails reminds her that the bright sunshine of spring will return soon."

Although Sanchez's work has now been recognized, Sanchez doesn't paint with the end result in mind — she does it because she finds it relaxing.

"I really don't think it's going to be good or bad," Sanchez said. "I just paint."

Sanchez has for a long time found relief in arts and crafts. She loves to knit, crochet and sew. She knits and crochets blankets and hats and sews baby toys, all of which she donates to local charities. But she's always looking for more ways to stay busy and keep her mind off of her health issues.

"I learned if you keep busy, it will go away," she said.

That's why she likes the weekly Memories in the Making painting sessions.

According to Julia Seibel, Silver Creek's activities director and the teacher of the Memories in the Making program at the residential facility, Sanchez's skills have developed since moving into Silver Creek.

"We used to just color," Seibel said. "And then we got more and more advanced. And now we draw our own pictures and paint them."

Sanchez had no painting experience before the Memories in the Making program. The program is designed for both people with art experience and without.

"The program's creative process provides a safe and validating environment for artistic expression, resulting in a creative and nonverbal way to communicate and capture precious moments through arts," reads the Alzheimer's Association's website. "Memories in the Making is much more than a traditional arts and crafts class or hobbies activity; it has proven to be beneficial and therapeutic, and can stimulate the brains of persons with dementia."

For Sanchez, the biggest benefit she's seen is a reduction in her anxiety and the shakes. And, she says it's made her feel empowered.

"It feels that I can do something," Sanchez said. "I feel more confident."

Julia Comnes covers all things Woodburn. She can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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