Senior Londyn Bogseth gets certified to teach people with Alzheimer’s to paint
Walking into Brookdale senior care community, senior Londyn Bogseth heads toward the painting room and hears the familiar sound of therapeutic music. She begins to help set up by grabbing watercolor sets, paint brushes and bowls of water. She then sits down in between two residents and watches them begin to paint.
This is the scene that Londyn encounters every Sunday when she volunteers at Brookdale College Square, a senior care community that specializes in Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Londyn helps a select group of residents paint. These residents are given the opportunity to paint through Memories in the Making(c), a program provided by the Alzheimer’s Association that allows people with Alzheimer’s disease to paint with watercolors every week in an hour-long session.
Londyn said she attended a six-hour-long training session and afterward was trained through the Alzheimer’s Association to help with the program.
Londyn attended the training session with Pamela Luna, the activities and life enrichment coordinator at Brookdale. Londyn has worked with Luna since she started volunteering in seventh grade at Rosewood Estates Assisted Living Community.
Londyn’s mom, Shelley Bogseth, said Londyn began volunteering with her older sister Lauryn Bogseth at Rosewood Estates in seventh grade when her sister needed community service hours for National Honor Society.
“Londyn found out she really enjoyed it,” Shelley said. “I believe to do this type of work, you truly have to have a calling to do it. Lauryn did it to get her hours, Londyn did it because she enjoyed it.”
When Londyn first started volunteering at Rosewood Estates, she helped out with Bingo and by painting the residents’ nails. Then, in the summer of 2016, Londyn said she started volunteering at Brookdale after Luna switched jobs. She said Luna then approached her about getting trained to help elderly residents paint through the program.
Luna said she asked Londyn to get trained because of her commitment and dedication. She also said that since she has worked with Londyn for so long, she finally realized she was going places and she wanted to help her out.
“It takes a special person to engage and to show compassion to residents, especially [with] Alzheimer’s and dementia unit patients,” Luna said. “It takes a great deal of patience, and just the love that you have to show to them. And just knowing that she has a great personality and those characteristics, it was really easy to know that she would make a perfect fit into starting out this program and to be able to be hands-on with the residents and doing these painting projects.”
Londyn said she decided to get certified because she enjoys working with elderly people. She also said it’s a good way to earn community service hours while still knowing she is doing something to help change someone’s life. After being trained, Londyn said one of the most rewarding things was being able to watch the residents enjoy themselves while painting.
“Usually you walk around nursing homes and you just see people sitting there and not actually doing anything,” Londyn said. “A certain group of people once a week get to go and listen to music and sit and chill and just paint what they want to. I think it’s pretty cool, just that time to themselves where they can just relax.”
Londyn said she realizes the importance of Memories in the Making(c). She said it provides structure for the residents by providing them with a place to go every week to paint, while also providing a free space for the residents to be creative. Londyn also said that this creativity through painting trains the residents’ brains and allows them to create more memories.
Londyn said this program is very rewarding. She said one of the most rewarding things is being able to see residents interact with their children and being able to see the look on the families’ faces after a resident remembers something. However, Londyn said there are difficult aspects because the rules of this program don’t allow her to directly help the residents.
“I just want to help them,” Londyn said. “I want to help them draw a line. They just can’t mentally know what they want to do. Some of them don’t know just to put the brush onto the paper; they just can’t physically do that. And so I just want to get in there and help them, help them draw a flower or anything like that. It’s tough to not help them with that kind of stuff.”
Karen Clond, who works for the Heart of America Alzheimer’s Association, said the reason for this rule is because Memories in the Making(c) wants to guarantee that the work done is by the resident themselves. She said a volunteer’s job is to help engage the resident, not paint for them. She said if the volunteer were to paint for the resident, it implies that the resident is not able to do it.
“It also dilutes the artist’s sense of ownership and pride, both goals of the program,” Clond said. “A volunteer’s job is to empower the artist.”
Londyn said volunteering at nursing homes and helping residents paint through this program has helped her realize what she wants for the future. She said working with the elderly has made her see she wants to work with special education students in her future. She said even though these two groups have quite an age gap they both possess some of the same qualities and she wants to continue to feel like she is making a difference.
Not only has volunteering helped Londyn know what career path she wants to pursue, Luna said it has also shaped her as a person. Luna said when Londyn first started out, she was quiet and shy, and is now more outgoing.
“She became outgoing and she found herself, who she is and what she wants to be,” Luna said. “She has grown in a mental status by being able to communicate with all different personality types. She has gotten to meet all different types of people with educations and they have gotten to live their lives. And she has gotten a piece of that knowledge.”
Shelley said she agrees that she thinks Londyn’s volunteer experience has helped shape the person she is today as well as what she wants to do in the future.
“I believe volunteering at the assisted living facility has influenced Londyn in such a way that she wants to make a career out of helping those with challenges,” Shelley said. “She gets so much joy out of helping others. It has also helped her appreciate the small acts of kindness in life. What might seem like nothing to most of us, can mean the world to these individuals.”