Art and culture combine to help dementia residents

Carmen Maisonneuve visits her husband Gerard every day at Covenant Care Saint-Thomas, a care centre located in the heart of Edmonton’s francophone community. Gerard is a resident in one of the dementia cottages. A new mural that covers an entire wall on the unit is now a favourite stop for the couple on their daily walk.

“He finds everything really interesting, so we stop at the painting and I point things out,” says Carmen. “I think it is really nice.” 

The mural of a library scene is not only beautiful and engaging for residents, its purpose is to camouflage the door. When dementia patients see a door, they often want to leave and can become anxious when it is locked for their safety. At Covenant Care Saint-Thomas, it is hoped the painting will distract their attention to something more calming.

“I am going to put the books with brightest colours and with francophone themes in the corners,” says artist Gabrielle Bujold. “I want to draw the residents' attention away from the door with things I hope will spark memories for them and they will enjoy.”

Well-known francophone artist Gabrielle Bujold was hired to paint a mural at Saint-Thomas. Gabrielle says the library scene will translate as "a walk through time" featuring a history of French Albertans who have done great things.

Gabrielle has painted many outdoor and indoor murals and even a library scene before, but never for such a special audience.

“My work has to mean something; I am not 18 anymore,” says Gabrielle. “When I see those moments when they (residents) are happy, it is totally worth it. It reminds me that they were once young people with incredible lives—and that is what I would like to put up there.”

Gabrielle is well known in the francophone community, so when it came to selecting an artist to paint the mural, Marc Arnal from the Saint-Thomas Community  Board says she was an easy choice. “We asked around for recommendations and the same name kept coming back: it was always Gabrielle Bujold.”

The $3,000 project is funded by the Éric Préville Personal Trust, which is dedicated to the health of seniors, with matching dollars coming from Covenant Care.

”This project was a perfect fit for the fund, and the Franco-Albertains Foundation (La Fondation franco-albertaine), which administers it, was so easy to work with,” says Marc,  who on this day was able to see Gabrielle perform her magic. She even let Marc and Joel Lavoie from the foundation leave their mark on the mural by painting a few strokes. 

Joel Lavoie from the Franco-Albertains Foundation ( La Fondation franco-albertaine), which administers the Éric Préville Personal Trust, gets a chance to paint a few books in the mural. The fund and Covenant Care each contributed $1,500 to the project.

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