Essex Jct. project highlights ‘joyful moments’ for patients, familes living with dementia

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 4:43 PM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - A memory care facility in Essex Junction is spotlighting the issues surrounding dementia as a part of Assisted Living Week.

It was a busy Thursday morning at Maple Ridge Memory Care in Essex Junction as crews glued 50 photos to the ground.

“It’s so much fun to see everybody’s pictures and it’s a really wonderful project because it makes everyone feel good and happy, and that’s kind of the point,” said Susan Belton, whose mother lived at the facility for a number of years. She and her husband continue to stay involved. “It’s just a wonderful place and we want to keep it rolling.”

Using a paste made of flour, sugar, and water, Belton and fellow crew members spent a few hours laying down 50 photos of residents, caregivers, and family members. “Big, giant smiles, you know? To see yourself on a big poster like that, it’s pretty awesome,” Belton said.

The effort is part of a larger one called The Inside Out Project. Using photos of people, the idea is to send a message out to passersby, advocating for something you believe in. In this case, the “Joyful Moments” of what can otherwise be a cruel disease.

“We just wanted to send a message to the world that even though dementia robs so much from an individual, it can’t take away the one moment that we’re living in. So, we’re posing the question, ‘What do you want to make of this moment?’” said Rebecca Gwozdz, who organized the project at Maple Ridge. She says that sometimes making the best of the moment takes unconventional forms. “We were waiting for a parade once and one of our residents was so excited about the music that they were playing, that she started doing a jig. And so we started dancing with her, and we looked around and everybody was watching us.”

By pasting down these photos, she says the point of this project is to normalize the everyday reality of memory care, even if it looks a little silly to outsiders. “That joy may not look like it used to, but it’s still joy and it’s still valid,” Gwozdz said.

While the photos are still here, Gwozdz says she hopes it gives people a reason to stop and reflect before they’re washed away by the rain. “And really how fitting is that when it comes to dementia, right?” she said.

Nationally, the Inside Out Project has been used over 2,300 times in 148 countries.