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Senior Care Innovation Scholarship Finalist Morgan Beckwith

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenAugust 24, 2013

A Place for Mom is proud to announce the commencement of their annual $1,000 scholarship for advancement in the field of gerontology. This is a general scholarship which will award the selected applicants with a financial donation. We have narrowed-down the finalists, which includes Morgan.

Congratulations to Morgan Beckwith, Senior Care Innovation Scholarship Finalist! Read Morgan’s essay below and vote for her if you think she deserves to be one of the 5 recipients of the $1,000 scholarship awards.

Morgan’s Essay

Embracing Alternative Therapies

Cognitive decline is an accepted side-effect of age.  This is generally gradual, mild-to-moderately significant, and referred to as dementia.  Exercising your brain on a regular basis can help to alleviate some symptoms of slowing mental function.  However, debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer’s have such a rapid progression in deterioration of cognitive function that patients are left unable to communicate and have serious memory and cognitive dysfunction that will never reverse itself.  Essentially, the left side of the brain does not function appropriately, that side of the brain that is generally associated with logic.

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Our senior population, who are victims of this disease, lose their ability to express themselves.  Expression of thoughts and feelings is necessary for human interaction, to combat depression, and to maintain overall health.  What then does an Alzheimer’s patient do when they have lost the ability to remember what something is called, who someone is, or where they are?  Research has historically focused on medication to slow down and combat this disease. I believe the right side of the brain, the creative side, provides an opportunity for these patients to communicate how they feel and let us know what is in their heart and soul.  They may not remember what a flower is called, but they know it makes them smile, they enjoy the smell, and the bright vibrant colors promote a peaceful feeling.  The senior care industry must evolve to incorporate any, and all, avenues to provide an improved quality of life for our senior citizens.  Painting a flower could be equivalent to speaking the word flower.  The senior care industry must evolve to incorporate any, and all, avenues to provide an improved quality of life for our senior citizens, including treatment alternatives such as art therapy.

As a lover of the arts, I have always known that painting and drawing provided a release when I chose not to use the left side of my brain.  When I was overwhelmed with calculus, essays, and the death of my father left me speechless, I turned to my artwork. I began to wonder how artistic expression could enhance the lives of those with cognitive disorders.  In my research I learned that studies done by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America have documented improvement in social skills, motor skills, behavioral problems, and agitation.

I am currently in the process of organizing a cognitive-impaired expression program called “The Heart Remembers.”  I have been able to call upon many organizations I have previously worked with as a volunteer who are very enthusiastic about this project.  It is interesting to note that our local Art Guild historically has only given scholarships to art majors.  Upon review of my application outlining my intentions to combine a medical degree with the healing properties of art, they made an exception and granted a small scholarship, encouraging me to continue this course.  One of my most cherished pieces, an elderly gentleman (attached) will be auctioned off to raise funds for needed supplies.

In summary, advances in medicine are obviously at the forefront of the fight against dementia. I believe wholeheartedly in this approach. However, alternative therapies must also be considered a valid addition to the arsenal.  Innovative approaches, such as art therapy, should become mainstream in the treatment protocols for these patients.  Members of the healthcare team at any level who are caring for our aging population must use both the left and right sides of our brains.

View otherSenior Care Innovation Scholarship Finalists. Don’t hesitate to congratulate and vote for Morgan in the comment form below if you think her essay is one of the most compelling of all the finalists. Keep in mind we are awarding 5 of the finalists with $1,000 which they can use toward their studies.

Dana Larsen
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Dana Larsen
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