An online painting class for people living with dementia has created an emotional connection for a Dundee family separated by lockdown.
Joe Boag was inspired to pick up a paintbrush thanks to online sessions run by artist Cara Rooney.
He created a picture featuring Dundee’s famous Law, which now has pride of place in his daughter’s house in Wales.
Joe has Alzheimer’s and hadn’t painted for many years.
Daughter Joanne hasn’t seen her parents for more than a year due to Covid restrictions so receiving the picture in the post was a poignant moment for her.
“It’s lovely and it made me so emotional,” she said.
“I’ve not been able to see my parents because of the lockdown and the painting of the Law is doubly poignant because I miss going up there so much.”
Joanne said Cara’s painting classes had brought her dad joy and peace during a difficult time.
“They are a godsend for him and also for my mum,” she said.
Art sessions were run from home
Cara graduated from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art last year with an honours in illustration.
It was a difficult time for students, with degree shows cancelled and celebrations banned.
But Cara, who began working part-time as a daycare organiser with Alzheimer Scotland during her studies, set up the online classes for service users to help them stay active during lockdown.
Studies have shown creativity is one of the last things to be affected as Alzheimer’s progresses through the brain.
It can help people express themselves when words are gone.
Cara ran sessions from her home in the Hilltown over Microsoft Teams, initially to two couples and a carer.
“The first sessions started in December so I got each of the participants to pick a place that was special to them,” said Cara.
‘Joe wanted to paint the Law’
“I found a snowy picture of each place and drew it on canvas then delivered it to them along with art materials.
“Joe wanted to paint the Law because it was a place that was important to him.
“He used to go up there with his family and always took visitors there because it had a view of the city.”
Cara added: “Joe has dementia and hadn’t painted in a while. He had painted before but didn’t think he could do it any more.
“He really enjoyed getting back to that and his family were really pleased he was taking it up again.
“When the painting was finished, his wife Doris said they wanted to send it to their daughter in Wales because they hadn’t seen her.
“Joanne has it on her wall now and it gives her a connection to her dad in Dundee.”
Cara ran a second session with a Scottish theme to mark Burns’ Night in January.
A third, beginning on Tuesday, will mark the beginning of spring and celebrate warmer weather and a return to better times.
“It’s all very relaxed and therapeutic,” said Cara.
“People just do it in their kitchens or their living rooms and it was nice in the lead-up to Christmas when they were getting their decorations up and I could see their houses changing.
“The people I work with are people who already receive services from Alzheimer Scotland and we just sit and chat and paint.
“It’s really nice.”
Joanne said she was incredibly grateful to Cara.
“My dad has always been really good at drawing and painting,” she said.
“I work in the theatre and he used to paint posters of the shows I was in.
“I always, always loved that and I was really sad when he stopped doing it.”
I’m counting the days until I’m allowed to cross the border.”
She added: “He’s struggling a bit now so anything that brings him joy and gives him peace is lovely.”
The Law has a special place in Joanne’s heart and she has many memories of family trips to the top.
“There are photos of me sitting by the memorial when I was wee,” she said.
“I haven’t lived in Dundee since I went to university in 1997 but I took it for granted I could jump on a plane or train any time.
“But this last year, gosh, it makes you realise you should never take these things for granted.”
Joe’s painting has made Joanne even more homesick.
“Time is precious with dad because he’s deteriorating,” she said.
“I’m counting the days until I’m allowed to cross the border – I’ll be right there.”
Support groups are ‘absolutely vital’
Alzheimer Scotland has also praised Cara’s work.
Locality leader Nikki Lorimer said: “I am constantly privileged to witness such significant levels of innovation and creativity shown by our staff.
“This group, led by Cara, is no exception.
“It has provided therapeutic benefit and positive outcomes to people with dementia and their carers and I was delighted to support it.”
Nikki added: “The coronavirus pandemic has been so challenging for many of the people we support and these groups are absolutely vital in helping to look after their wellbeing and keep them connected.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how this project develops.”
You can find more about the services offered at Alzheimer Scotland’s Dundee Dementia Resource Centre by visiting www.alzscot.org