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Wendy & Beryl's Art Club .....

Last week I had the pleasure of talking to Wendy Thompson, I chatted to Wendy about her 85 year old mother, Beryl, and the unexpected results of starting their very own art club.

Beryl has advanced dementia and this is their story ......

Wendy's mum Beryl is 85, she lives in a nursing home and because of her condition she is permanently bed bound.

Over the last few months she has had a couple of spells in hospital, the last time she came out of hospital she had become noticeably withdrawn, it was difficult to find things that would stimulate her. Communication was poor and some days she could barely communicate at all apart from a gentle squeeze of the hand.

Lockdown came, making it even more difficult for the family, they were told they would not be able to visit during this time. However the nursing home arranged regular Skype calls, Wendy recalls this being some what challenging to begin with, at one point she remembers having a conversation with the ceiling! However over the weeks they soon got the hang of it.

Even though this lifeline of communication had been set up and Wendy was able to see her mums face, it was still proving rather challenging. Beryl was really not able to communicate, it became increasingly more difficult to have these Skype sessions. On one particular day Wendy was frustrated at the situation with Skype and wanted to engage with Beryl in a more interactive way - so decided to show her mum some of her paintings which she had recently done herself during lockdown.

Wendy would talk to Beryl about the paintings she had been working on - it was at this point something magical started to happen - There was a flicker of joy in her eyes, a glimmer of interest.

The activities coordinator who was helping with the Skype calls had also noticed this spark, and wondered whether there would be a way to engage Beryl in some sort of art activity. As a start it was suggested Beryl watch Grayson Perry's Art Club (currently showing on channel 4) to see whether this would ignite some interest. . It was not long after that they took this one step further and with the help of the activities coordinator started their very own art club.

The theme would always be flowers, they started off with Daisys - all the paints and materials were gathered and an hour of painting commenced together via Skype.

Wendy describes the session as "....Beautiful and amazing, what an unexpected surprise, my mum has never been artistic so I was blown away with how focussed she was and how she concentrated on all the detail. We talk about what we're doing, we talk about the colours we're choosing , we have a conversation! What's more in that moment of painting and producing a piece of artwork she has a happy, positive experience. Even though this may be forgotten within a short while I know that this positive experience will last a long time"

That was just the beginning ...... over the weeks both Wendy and Beryl continue to paint. Always using the theme of flowers - For VE day they chose Poppies, they've done Buttercups, Sunflowers and Forget-me-Nots.

Wendy goes on to say that when lock down is over she is hoping that they can do an exhibition showcasing both their artworks.

Since I last spoke to Wendy, exactly 1 week ago, she posted her story on facebook. It's gone viral with 32000 likes, nearly 5000 comments and over 2000 shares. What an amazing story!

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