Healing Brushstrokes

The first time Elizabeth Cockey taught an art class for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, things didn’t go exactly as planned. Unfortunately, some of her students thought it was meal time and tried to eat and drink the non-toxic art supplies. But rather than get discouraged, Cockey simply redoubled her efforts, heading to the library to do some background research. Six months later, her students could all sit down and paint a mural together on brown postal paper. Word of her success spread quickly, and soon a number of retirement communities were requesting her services.

Cockey’s classes have helped patients improve motor coordination, boost self-esteem and renew their interest in living. At one institution, the staff asked Cockey to convince a deaf patient—a woman who’d spent the past couple of years refusing to leave her room for activities—to join her class. “I went in and got her and rolled her out,” Cockey says. “I put the brush in her hand, and she started painting with everyone else.” Then the woman started to respond to questions the Cockey asked the group. It turned out that she wasn’t deaf at all—she just never felt she had anything to say before joining the class.

For more information on Elizabeth Cockey, visit Elizabethcockey.com.

Edited by Lisa Wurster, associate editor for The Artist’s Magazine.

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