Coping with the loss of a parent: Documenting dementia

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napArtist Susan Myrland could have succumbed to the sadness and frustration of watching her elderly mother slip into dementia. Instead, she morphed the experience into a cathartic artistic expression–and shared it online, for all the world to see.

“I was starting to forget who she’d been,” Myrland said. “The person that she was with dementia was just erasing all the good memories that I’d had of her as an independent woman, and a very intelligent woman, a very strong woman. That was beginning to be wiped away.”

Proper attire requestedShe didn’t realize that an Internet audience would want to follow along as her beloved mother Ginny struggled; in fact as she chronicled her mother’s demise, she attracted followers.

Now a sampling of these images are on display at the UCLA Medical School’s Learning Resources Center, where the busy lobby serves as an art gallery. The space offers students and visitors a glimpse at the human side of medicine. (Last time we visited, it was to look at a show depicting how artists coped with back pain.)

I can’t eat

Myrland hopes that medical students will see the show and realize that they are dealing with a family system. “If they think that it’s just going to be a one-to-one doctor patient relationship, in the case of dementia, where there’s this cognitive impairment, they have to interact with other people, and convey the information to other people, and work through other people.”