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Changing lives... one picture at a time

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AN art therapy program at St Joseph’s Residential Aged Care in Coffs Harbour has swept the pool at the local show, winning three awards and highlighting the amazing work the program does.

They will be the first of many ribbons to potentially come flying through the doors at St Joseph’s – with Recreational Activities Coordinator Chris McKay vowing they’ll be entering the competition “every year from here on out!”.

Chris entered the service into the 2017 Coffs Harbour Annual Show for the first time ever, after seeing the amazing work being produced by staff and residents in various units.

St Joseph’s Coffs Harbour is no stranger to the creative arts, with a specialty homemade shop onsite featuring products handmade by residents and volunteers. The proceeds of the shop go directly to funding community programs in the service, like the art therapy program and excursions around the local area.

The art therapy program was created specifically for the dementia unit of St Joseph’s, a remedy internationally renowned for stimulating self-expression in individuals living with memory loss, anxiety and depression.

Chris, with the help of her team members Kim, Margaret and Jo, spontaneously came up with the idea to pitch the group’s handiwork into the ‘First Time Entrants’ category at the local show, upon seeing their creative efforts and the positive impact it had on the individuals. 

In addition to the artwork submission, the service also entered homemade crocheted coat hangers, tote bags, jewellery, painted doorstops and quilted patchwork – walking away with not one, but three special awards and sashes.

Chris McKay said she and the team couldn’t be prouder of the group’s efforts.

“It’s amazing to see when something can come from nothing. Most of these residents may have never even tried art therapy in their younger years – but the fact they’ve won something has given them the true confidence they need.”

A proud advocate of their holistic therapies, Chris McKay regularly plans alternative activities that are deliberately inclusive of all residents.

“We try and include everyone in the service, especially when it comes to dementia. Something like the art therapy program and other sensory therapies means it can awaken memories the residents have forgotten. It’s a magical thing to watch.”

Chris says the overwhelming sense of acheivement from the group has cemented the decision to re-engage with the Coffs Harbour Show long into the future.

“We’ve graduated from first time entrants to the category of Over 70s! We might have been the only aged care service to enter this year, but maybe in the future we’ll have some tough competition!”