How dementia-inspired art reconnected Aneae to her grandmother

When she was younger, Aneae didn’t know much about Alzheimer's disease and was scared to see her grandmother’s condition progressing. Now she has a new understanding and wants to make amends with her dementia-inspired artwork dedicated to her Nana.

Dementia can be a difficult topic to talk about, no matter your age.

If your family is affected by the condition, it can be hard to know how to talk to children about the diagnosis. They may ask questions you don’t have the answers to or you might not know how to talk about dementia in a child-friendly way.

Our wide range of resources available for parents, carers, schools and organisations can help teach children about dementia and to become dementia-friendly. We love celebrating those who’ve taken steps to learn about dementia and support people affected by a diagnosis.

Here, Aneae, a former student at St Augustine’s Priory, shares the story behind her final A Level art piece, which is now used as a teaching aid at the school.

Drawings of Aneae's grandmother

Aneae's artwork

Aneae’s story

I didn't know my grandmother very well before she was diagnosed. She lived in Canada, and we moved away when I was only three years old. 

We moved around a lot because of my father's work, from Japan to Singapore to the UK. From what my dad told me about my grandmother, she was someone who kept everyone together, worked every day of her life, and sadly didn't get to enjoy her retirement because of her Alzheimer's diagnosis.

By the time I was old enough to understand what was happening, I could feel that something was amiss with Nana. If I'm honest, it scared me.

My parents tried to explain what was going on. They said she was sick and might not be able to hear or remember me very well. But no longer being able to hold a conversation was really scary.

‘I never got to see who she was beyond the illness. I could never communicate with her because she couldn't speak to me. These feelings are what drove the intentions behind my art piece.’ 

Communicating through art

I felt I wanted to apologise to her, to correct all of the years of misunderstanding, of fear and confusion and distrust I felt towards her because of something that wasn't her fault.

We didn't see the day-to-day slow progress of her disease. What we saw were snapshots, sometimes up to two years apart, so it felt like the illness jumped in huge leaps. I had it easy in a way - I didn't see the slow deterioration that a lot of people have to witness.

After learning more about dementia, I wanted to use my art pieces to say, 'I see you now, Nana. I'm sorry. I see you now. I hear you now.' I wanted to make amends with my misunderstanding of Alzheimer's disease, and my years of feeling afraid of the condition.

The pieces are for her. 'I've felt honoured that they've touched other people, too

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This is truly beautiful, I am doing a similar art project about my nana. Your words are both touching and inspirational.

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Thank you Aneae for sharing your Nana's real life story.
How amazing is the incredible power of the visual arts
to get to the heart of what really matters?
Well done.

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The third stage represents that while she couldn’t communicate by conventional means she could understand. Let’s not forget that and when we meet make sure we involve people and not talk over them.

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Such beautiful drawings and a lovely way to connect with your grandmother.

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