Mary Crescenzo Engages with Alzheimer’s Through the Arts

About_Crescenzo_ Mary-2

mary_crescenzo_planet_Alzheimers_guide.jpegBy Mary Crescenzo

After decades as a pioneer in working with persons with Alzheimer’s/dementia using the arts to achieve alternative, complementary ways of connection, I knew I had to share my methods of arts engagement as a professional teaching artist with those who care for persons with this disorder.  This is how The Planet Alzheimer’s Guide: 8 Ways the Arts Can Transform the Life of Your Loved One and Your Own, came to be.  I wrote this how-to guide for caregivers, personal and professional, to offer step-by-step tips and techniques so caregivers, family and friends of those with this disorder can discover how interaction and communication, through painting, music, movement, storytelling, poetry and photography, can enrich the lives of loved ones as well as their own, even though they or those they care for may have no arts background.

My purpose in writing this book is to give the reader the confidence to realize that anyone can do this.  This book provides easy-to-follow guidelines for positive and open engagement with someone with Alzheimer’s/dementia in ways you and your loved one may have never connected before.  This can be accomplished within various stages of this disorder.  I know that the idea of making and sharing art with someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia may seem foreign and unattainable, but with the understanding that creativity is an innate gift given to all of us, you will discover that it is possible as well as cathartic and rewarding for all involved.

A special place in my heart remains for each and every one of the people I engaged with over the years.  I will never forget how their creative spirit was realized in spite of the limitations of Alzheimer’s and dementia.  When art is the shared, common denominator, amazing things happen.  Each person’s individual manner of self-expression, whether through painting, singing, expressive movement and impromptu or image-prompted storytelling, confirms how unique we all are.  The artwork of a person with this disorder is a stamp of this person’s life, a testament to this person’s dignity, and a legacy on paper or in a recording for those who carry on with remembrance.

In a dedicated chapter to caregiver’s self-care, chapter eight addresses the often-forgotten need of care partners for self-expression in the midst of challenges they face.  This chapter presents, through creative writing open-ended prompts, a safe, private and nurturing way for carers to achieve respite, relaxation and revelation.

Through the story of how my journey into the Planet Alzheimer’s began, along with a clear explanation of what arts engagement is, how it works, and how it benefits both persons with Alzheimer’s/dementia and those who care for them, The Planet Alzheimer’s Guide not only will help end the stigma of this disorder but will also help those living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias to participate in the creative process that fosters stimulation, relaxation, socialization and an enriched quality of life.  My mentor Mel Lee said it best: “Don’t miss out on the beauty of a spirit not gone.”

Bio: Mary Crescenzo

Mary Crescenzo is a multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary artist.  As a master teaching artist, she is a pioneer in arts engagement Crescenzo_Marywith persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.  Her writing spans the literary world as a published author of nonfiction, fiction, essay, poetry and reviews in both commercial and literary markets.  As a blogger, she began as a writer-at-large for The Huffington Post and currently hosts the podcast, The Planet Alzheimer’s Guide on  Mary also co-facilitates the quarterly international “Arts & Dementia Education Panel” with host Lori La Bey on

In the world of theatre, she is a playwright and performer, member of the Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights and a lifetime member of The Dramatists Guild.  Her play, Planet A, a social drama, is based on her vast experiences as a teaching artist around the country with persons with Alzheimer’s.  In the world of music, Mary is a Jazz singer, cabaret artist, lyricist and librettist.

Mary has also worked for decades in the field of community arts and as an advocate for creating awareness of the benefits of art for all ages, including those with special needs.  She coined the phrase, “art in unlikely places as part of her teaching artist’s mission for arts engagement for all.  Her work has often incorporated an intergenerational approach.  Mary is an original roster member of Lifetime Arts, a national nonprofit encouraging creative aging and lifelong learning by promoting the inclusion of professional arts programs in community organizations that serve older adults.  Mary’s current focus is on public speaking on Arts and Alzheimer’s, based on her book, The Planet Alzheimer’s Guide, on continuing her work as a writer, and as a consultant for arts programming in communities.

Connect with Mary:!biz/id/60da036ab27b2461297011fd

Clink to play excerpt: Planet A (originally titled, Piece of Mind)


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2 Responses

    1. Thank you, Dr. Goodenowe for your kind words about my book. Many of these techniques can work for caregivers and those they care for in other cases as well as with those with Alzheimer’s/dementia. It’s all about being in the moment, following the innate creative spirit in all of us, using these techniques as a guide.

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