Categorized | Family Care

Caregiving for the cognitively impaired through expressive arts

By David Price

Madison Square Garden, October 2009: My wife, Sylvia and I are delighted to attend the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert. The show opens with Jerry Lee Lewis, still on fire at age 74, followed by a fabulous line up Hall of Fame Inductees. They all sound great. As BB King sings The Thrill Is Gone I wonder how long can these guys keep going? As a casual musician myself, I wonder how long can I keep it going?

My mom tells me to never give up music as it keeps me young. Her advice is not just for aging musicians. A growing field of study is demonstrating the benefits of expressive arts to seniors, especially to dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers. Not only is it never too late to stop enjoying arts, it’s never too late to start enjoying arts. Here’s a very touching example.

Neurologist Dr. Daniel Potts tells the inspirational story of his late father, Lester, and the mission of advocacy inspired by his experience.

Lester Potts was a strong, righteous man from Alabama. He learned the Great Depression work ethic through toiling in the family sawmill and farm. As Lester aged, his cognitive skills deteriorated. Even his son, a trained neurologist, struggled to discern the difference between normal aging and dementia. Then it hit home; Lester lost his job due to mental errors.

Lester’s disease course was uncharacteristically rapid. Lester’s wife, Ethelda, dedicated her energy and love to Lester’s well being. Eventually Lester went to a dementia daycare center.

Through the fine instruction of an art volunteer, Lester flourished into a prolific artist. In the face of increasing deficits that rendered Lester silent, he developed new talents. A source of pride and healing for a broken man, these talents opened a small window in the wall of isolation built by a horrible disease.

Lester’s last images were quite poignant to Daniel. They were images of Lester’s early childhood — Lester’s father’s boots and hat, picket fences and a saw.

Lester’s miraculous accomplishments inspired Potts to leverage his neurology skills to advocate for the cognitively impaired. Potts formed two organizations, Cognitive Dynamics Foundation ( and Dementia Dynamics, LLC (, which collectively strive to achieve the following goals:

•Promote a caregiving model for the cognitively impaired in which known or hidden talents are sought out and developed through expressive arts, thereby enhancing hope and human dignity.

•Emphasize the benefits of specialized dementia programs utilizing this model.

•Educate professional and lay caregivers on these techniques.

•Work with government, the American Academy of Neurology and others to seek funding and support for research.

Potts will speak at the Boston University Department of Neurology Grand Rounds on May 25. During his visit, he will meet with regional dementia care organizations to explore collaborative opportunities for research, advocacy and promotion of innovative caregiving models for the cognitively impaired.

That night at Madison Square Garden, great rock & roll musicians proved their thrill was not yet gone. Many afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s are not so lucky. Through the power of expressive arts, Lester found a new thrill at an unlikely moment in his life.

Dave Price is the president and owner of BrightStar Home Care and Staffing Company of Milford-Worcester, which serves all of Worcester County. He can be reached at or by calling 508-282-5020.

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