"Riders of the Dawn" - by Frank Tenney Johnson, 1935 (all photographs by Marylin Warner, with permission by the Broadmoor Hotel)

“Riders of the Dawn” – by Frank Tenney Johnson, 1935 (all photographs by Marylin Warner, with permission by the Broadmoor Hotel)

"Indian Weaver"- 1914 by Eanger I. Couse

“Indian Weaver”- 1914 by Eanger I. Couse

Last week’s post, “Preparing For The Best,”  offered suggestions for preparing for a visit with a loved one who suffers with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  There were many responses and additional suggestions, and I sincerely thank each of you for sharing excellent information with us.

Gallivanta of “Silkannthreades” provided this link to the “The Art Of Urging those With Dementia to Think.”  This is excellent information about the benefits of viewing art, making art and responding to art for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Pablo Picasso said,  “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” In my experience with the failing memories of both my parents, art also temporarily washes away the confusion of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

For instance, using the three wonderful paintings from the early 1900s, imagine viewing these very large, colorful paintings with an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient.  For “Riders of the Dawn,” the focus could be the action. Which horse do you like best? Or start with a statement: My favorite horse is this one (and point), and then ask if they agree. For early stages of dementia, you might ask, Where do you think they’re going? and let them create a story or build on a memory.

Or move on to “Indian Weaver,” and early Alzheimer’s and dementia patients might respond to the weaving and the parent and child.  The picture might trigger memories of trying to work with children around, or cute things children do.

My favorite of the three paintings is “The Peacemaker.” After breakfast at The Broadmoor Hotel’s Charles Court recently, my husband Jim and my brother David and I studied this wonderful 5’x5’ 1913 painting and debated which of the characters is REALLY the Peacemaker. Art truly does make us all think, and for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it might possibly be the nudge that triggers memories and responses.

There are no medical solutions for dementia and Alzheimer’s at this point, and there are no quick fixes or easy answers for helping those we love who suffer with confusion and memory loss.  Pablo Picasso says, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”  Maybe the same is true with keeping alive the attraction to art in the lives of ourselves and those we love.


With thanks to Rod of “Just Rod” for suggesting using CDs with favorite old songs, hymns or tunes; to Diana of “The Best Chapter” for suggesting that we read aloud to our loved ones; and to Nancy of “BackPorchBreak” for suggesting we look at family pictures together.

And special thanks to Clem, a psychiatric nurse of “Zachandclem,” who gently reminds us that Alzheimer’s victims’ fury has nothing to do with actual angry emotions, but with the dementia reaching the frontal lobe.

(My sincere thanks to the 5-star Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs for allowing me to photograph some of their valuable paintings and share them with you on this blog.)

"The Peacemaker" - 1913 by Ernest L Blumenschein

“The Peacemaker” – 1913
by Ernest L Blumenschein



Filed under art, art projects, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, teaching


  1. juliabarrett

    Astute, Marylin. I can see this working as well with autistic children, people with anxiety disorders, public speaking phobias… me. What a conversation starter. Perfect quote by Picasso.

    • I think you’re right, Julia. Anyone who needs a little help getting started or responding to conversation would probably do much better with a little encouragement from art. Or, when there are no words, having supplies and space to make their own art would be good. Music and art would be a powerful combination, too.

  2. Another very helpful and insightful post. It is sometimes difficult to come up with topics to talk about that will really involve the other person. I can imagine taking along an art book or one or two posters. Preparing conversation starters in advance makes such good sense. Then keeping flexible to react to the kind of day the other is having. Thanks for this Marylin.

  3. Wonderful! You’re providing such beneficial information for those of us with loved ones living with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. You’re an angel, Marylin! Thank you for what you do.

    • I hope the information is helpful, Jill. Each person’s response can be very different, so it’s trial and error. But overall, finding ways to use art and music seems to have benefits.
      Your comments are so sweet; thank you.

  4. Hi Marylin,
    “Indian Weaver” is my favorite. Art really does stir and brighten the mind, not only for those who suffer with with Alzheimer’s, but in children as well. Just like talented Grace and Gannon. I just love gazing at the Mindful Picasso Masterpieces they sent in for my blog.
    I recently just found out my dad’s brother who lives in the States (we live in Canada) has Alzheimer’s. This is such a horrible disease. I hope a cure will come sooner rather than later.
    Have a wonderful summer. I hope you’ll be able to spend more time with your mom.
    I’ll be back in September.

  5. Such a nice positive blog post. Thanks for sharing it all…love the pictures and may have to reference you on my own blog soon to share ideas further.

  6. You have it together. Blessings.

  7. Pingback: Playing Catch-Up | That's a Jenn Story

  8. So lovely to read your post Marilyn and to see how you have taken up and developed the ideas on the link I sent you. I love your well chosen quotes from Picasso. In my past 5 or 6 posts, I have included an artwork in the background of my photos. They are artworks which I have been studying on my own and which I believe are, or interpret as, relevant to each of my posts. I am having such fun learning about art. I was intrigued by Benjamin and the Paper Trail. Recently I introduced my mother to a so called children’s book about New Zealand in the depression and war years. I say so called because a good story can be read with pleasure by almost any age group. She is thoroughly enjoying the book and recalling childhood memories. She doesn’t have dementia but all these ideas enrich us all.

    • The link you sent was excellent, and the artwork in the background of your blog is always excellent.
      I’m so glad you enjoyed “Benjamin and the Paper Trail.” HIGHLIGHTS had wonderful illustrations, but that was in the magazine and I wasn’t able to duplicate it. Then the reprint rights were picked up by another publication that was covering information and stories from the Depression.
      My grandchildren read the story, and then they each had a jar of allowance money that they buried wherever they wanted in the yard, but they had to also make a map so they could locate the jars. It’s an added bonus when the stories I sell appeal to my family and friends and we can have fun with them.
      I agree that a good story can be read with pleasure by almost any age group. If you google HIGHLIGHTS FOR CHILDREN and put in the story title, you might be able to still access the artwork for the story that their artists created. I’m always so amazed and pleased by how magazine artists interpret a story.

      • Thank you Marilyn. I did find Benjamin with the illustrations. Wonderfully done. And it had a read along button too. I am going to see if I can find any of your other writings through google. Your grandchildren must have had such fun with burying their money jars 🙂

  9. And yes who is the Peacemaker? I am wondering if it is the land itself.

  10. molly

    Wonderful job, as usual, Mom. Love the pictures. I say the little child is the peacemaker!

    • Me, too! There are so many ways to interpret that painting, which is why I like it so much. Plus, I always imagine Grace and Gannon growing up and accomplishing important things!

  11. Dear Marylin, Wonderful post, and what an excellent resource. So many memories of my mother . . . Love and blessings, Ellen

  12. A beautiful post once again Marylin. Your words of wisdom and advise are much appreciated. Blessings, Robyn

    • I’m so glad, Robyn. I had a lot of help with this post. The link to the “art of nudging memories awake,” and so many helpful suggestions for readers. It’s always gratifying when we work together and try to figure out what works.

  13. And just think Marylin your grandchildren are seeing your memories being recreated on here and they in years and generations to come will sit with their grandchildren and look at the words and images that you created creating new memories. Your current crop of grandchildren will point out to them what a wonderful caring person you were in helping others along the path of life…..

    I like the cowboys, as I wanted to be a wee Scottish cowboy when I was a kid, then William Tell, then Robin Hood,Christopher Columbus or Vasgo Da Gama then Sir Francis Drake, then … and I could go on

    • A Scottish cowboy…William Tell…Robin Hood…and on and on. What a creative spirit you had even as a child, Tom. Thanks for the image of my grandchildren responding to the blog. That warms my heart!

  14. I thought of you and your Mom when I saw a video about a man who was in a elder care facility. When he was given a headset to listen to music from his era, he was no longer withdrawn. The music drew him out of the shadows he’d lived in and recharged him. I think art and music are wonderful ways to connect. A thoughtful and helpful post, Marilyn.

    • Oh, I love this, Judy. In the earlier stages of dementia, I’d bring CDs of music Mom enjoyed, and we’d use colored pencils on art pads and scribble or draw anything we thought of. I miss those days.

  15. I’m a great believer in art awakening the senses and to use it as therapy for old and young alike can only be an inspiring experience for all. Lovely post.

    • I agree, Jenny. All ages, all abilities and interests can enjoy and profit from art. One day walking around the halls of the Broadmoor Hotel, studying and enjoying their art exhibits, energized me and woke me up to new writing ideas.

  16. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Love the art connection. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Nancy. Remember when PenWomen went to Bemis Art School and painted? I’ve thought of that so many times and wished my mom was still able to enjoy something like that.

  17. Meeting you at this time, Marilyn, is very timely. We are dealing with my beloved mother-in-law’s Alzheimer’s decline from 1000 miles away. Phone conversations can be challenging and the visits jarring. The tips from you and your contributors are very helpful – thank you.

    • I’m glad to meet you, Shel, but sorry about the circumstances. For 7 years my dad struggled against Alzheimer’s, and now my mother has advanced dementia. It’s a hard journey, yet you’ll find many on the same route with you, sharing what works and what doesn’t, and that will help.
      I hope you and the family will start writing down specific memories and sharing them with each other–and your mother-in-law–you’ll be surprised how much this will help. Please join us again.

  18. Art and of course, you have mentioned music before, can bring all kinds of memories. My mother just loved the new movie out on redbox, “Quartet” and it has so many excellent elderly musicians and also, opera/operetta singers, at the end the movie mentions when these performers were around in their prime. Mom and I got tears from the wonderful love and friendships stories. It was directed by Dustin Hoffman and won a few awards… just another possible way to connect with your mother or someone else may use it with their family member… take care, Robin

    • Oh, Robin, my husband Jim and I thoroughly enjoyed “Quartet” as well. I mentioned to him how I wished my mother could still sit in a movie–and in this movie she would have loved the English gardens and countryside, even if she couldn’t have understood what was happening–but she’s long past that point. Like you, Jim and I really enjoyed the snippets of the real actors, their lives, etc.

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