E A R L E N E    H A R D I E    C OX

My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at 68 years of age, and for the 12 years after that diagnosis, my six siblings and I took care of her in her home. The impact of experiencing someone you love erase a little bit every day is beyond words. I called it “the long goodbye,” and every day for 12 years, I mourned the loss, but also rejoiced each time my mother “remembered” ... sometimes me, sometimes my sister or brothers, but just “remembered.”

My mom passed away in 2003, and I realized that her journey could be my journey. Knowing there is no cure, I decided to combat it, not with drugs but by treating my brain like a muscle, because in many ways it behaves like a muscle. It can be trained to improve different cognitive functions, such as working memory.

Being dominantly right-handed and left-brained, I decided to cognitively improve the left side of my brain. I started simply with eating and writing with my left hand and ultimately started sculpting, since it required the use of both the left and right hand, and both the left and the right side of the brain. This has led me on an extraordinary journey. I am now a sculptor, a juried artist and a resident studio artist at the Clay Art Center in Port Chester, and most of all I am an Alzheimer’s advocate for using art to minimize the impacts of the disease.

My proudest achievement is instituting a program called “In an Art State of Mind” for the Alzheimer’s and dementia patients at the Wartburg skilled care center. Through a partnership between the Westchester County Chapter of the Links, Inc., (I am a member), which provides financing and volunteers, and the

earlene

Clay Art Center in Port Chester, which provides instructors and supplies, we have embarked on a yearlong program to provide clay sessions to the Wartburg Alzheimer’s and dementia residents. It is amazing watching the residents light up and smile when they touch clay or make something, but it is just as wonderful seeing that the volunteers are also becoming aware and experiencing being “In an Art State of Mind.”