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BENEFITS O.C.

Monthly Therapy

Calendars Made by Alzheimer's Patients Raise Funds and Spirits

January 20, 1998|ANN CONWAY

The event: An evening reception for underwriters and founders of Memories in the Making, a calendar featuring paintings by persons with Alzheimer's disease. The event was sponsored by the Alzheimer's Assn. of Orange County at the Center Club in Costa Mesa.

Memory in the making: Selly Jenny of Newport Beach developed the calendar program on behalf of the Alzheimer's Assn. to help "dignify the patient," she says. "I was feeling the pain on the part of the family and the patient," says Jenny, whose 85-year-old mother died of the disease 12 years ago. "I could see that patients were misunderstood, that families and caregivers were confused about how to care for them."

Alzheimer's is characterized by profound memory loss. Symptoms include difficulty with language and abstract thinking, poor judgment, disorientation of place and time and changes in mood or behavior. There is no cure.

In the Memories in the Making art program, paintings by Orange County Alzheimer patients are annually submitted to the association. Jenny, along with other supporters of the association, selects 12 works for each calendar.

The opportunity to paint gives patients a process by which they can tell their life stories, Jenny says. "Each painting has a story behind it--many of them breakthrough stories that tell us who the patients are."

Painting with pride: The paintings of Alzheimer's patient Kay Joseph, 87, have been featured several times in the annual calendar, once on the cover. "Her work is very gratifying for me but even more important for her," says her son, Tom Joseph of Cerritos. "It is something she can look at, recognize as an accomplishment, when really she is losing control of most everything around her."

Impact: This is the 10th year for the Memories in the Making program and the eighth for the calendar. "Selly's project has exposed the reality that patients . . . will have feelings no matter where they are," says Chuck Conine of Huntington Beach, association president.

On view: The 1998 calendar cover painting by Tim Dunn, 55, of Costa Mesa was on display at the reception. Dunn, formerly a high school science teacher, had the disease diagnosed when he was 52. Carolee Dunn, also a teacher, says she was devastated by the news. But husband Tim took his diagnosis calmly, she says. "He tells us, 'In life, you play the cards you're dealt.' " The opportunity to paint gives him great joy, says Carolee. "He is quite good at it."

Bottom line: Calendar proceeds will go toward services provided by the association, including a help line, support groups, education, legal planning services, a speakers bureau and a respite program. To order a copy, send a check for $14 to Alzheimer's Assn., 2540 N. Santiago Blvd., Orange, CA 92867.

What's next: Crean Classic golf tournament at El Niguel Country Club in Laguna Niguel on April 20. For information on the tournament and the calendar: (714) 283-1111.

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