Art student’s ‘memory wall’ inspired by Alzheimer’s

A specially created wall filled with people’s memories of loved ones has been created by a student at Gray’s School of Art.

Sophie Breustedt (22), who is studying sculpture, was inspired by her experience of working with care home residents with Alzheimer’s to embark on the project, currently on display as part of her final Degree Show.

After building the wall from six doors hinged together and painted white, she installed the piece at Aberdeen’s Health and Care Village where she encouraged people to write a memory of someone they love or have loved on it, leaving a permanent reminder of that person.

Sophie said: “Lots of people have written about loved ones that have passed away but some are funny, some are poems and someone even brought in a photograph. I left the project wide open so that anyone can write on it – not just those who have relatives suffering from dementia.

“There is a stigma that surrounds the conditions of dementia and Alzheimer’s and I hope this project encourages people to be open and share their own experiences to reduce some of that stigma. By sharing their memories on the wall, I hope people will be willing to talk and share their experiences with one another too.”

Sophie worked in a care home in her home town of Ayr, as well as Torry, after moving to Aberdeen.

She said: “Working in such an environment was incredibly rewarding but also emotionally challenging. The job was very tough, especially when doing 12 hour shifts but every time I felt like I couldn’t carry on, one of the residents would thank me or one of my co-workers would cheer me up and that made it all worthwhile.

“It made the concept of death become very real as I lost quite a few residents in the time I worked there. It was very hard to become attached to a resident and then come in to work a week later and learn they had passed away.”

She added: “Working as a carer taught me a lot about dementia that I didn’t know before. These people are more than just care home residents stuck with a horrible disease, they are human beings with their own personalities and histories and families who could tell me all about them. It made me see them in a completely different way and working there made me incredibly empathetic.

“On the other side, it made me painfully aware of how horrendous the disease is and how upsetting it can be. Some days were emotionally very difficult.”

Sophie has worked with staff at Alzheimer Scotland and the Health and Care Village as part of the project and has been delighted by their support and the feedback she’s received.

“The feedback from this project has been amazing,” she said. “The general consensus is that it should be an on-going project, travelling around Aberdeen’s hospitals, care homes, sheltered housing and other institutions.

“I would love the opportunity to carry on with the project – there is still plenty of space left on the wall!”

Sophie’s memory wall will be on display at Gray’s School of Art, Garthdee, as part of the 2014 Degree Show, until Saturday, June 28.

Release by
Jenny Rush

Communications Officer | Design and Technology

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