Every Friday morning, senior citizens with memory challenges gather in a sunlit room that once was a simple garage. They're tentative and cautious, don't know each other. But soon they act as a group, enthusiastically smearing colorful paints onto white paper. Anything goes for folks who feel like everything was taken.
Relaxation is attained. And memories, however fleeting in the grip of Alzheimer's Disease, are created. Participants are, for the duration of the session, comfortable with each other.
Welcome to the weekly "Memories in the Making" session, sponsored by Home Matters Caregiving under the auspices of the Oregon Alzheimer's Association. Participants pay nothing. But what they gain is priceless. The best of their works will eventually go to auction to raise funds for programs such as this and to help the Alzheimer's Association blunt the pain of a relentless disease. This year, more than $170,000 was raised from the sale of the best of their paintings.
The rewards go to all, however. Christina Foutch, co-founder of Home Matters and a specialist in Alzheimer's care, considers Friday morning the highlight of her week. She gently guides participants in their exercises and sees the remarkable artwork created by folks who are in some cases uncommunicative. "You know life makes sense when you bring joy to someone's life," she says.
Foutch is an occupational therapist by training. She founded the company in 2007 with her husband, Clayton Foutch, and is a firm believer in giving back to the community. Her outreach extends to free monthly classes on other aging issues including "Meeting the Emotional Needs of Patients Suffering Dementia," to "Hospice Care" and "Early Signs of Alzheimer's Disease." She is joined by the company's registered nurse.
Foutch encourages Home Matters employees also to volunteer in their communities and sees outreach as part of a healthy company. Home Matters has gone from four to 60 employees since its inception and serves families from Beaverton to Forest Grove, Newberg and Southeast Portland. All senior needs are met by the agency following a free evaluation by one of the company's managers.
"A culture of compassion and the willingness to treat every client as an individual with unique needs and personality are our focus," Foutch says.
That certainly is clear on Friday mornings in Home Matters training room. Art is created. So, too, are memories.
Christina Lima is a client services manager at Home Matters.
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