Empty Bowls is one of El Caldito’s Soup Kitchen’s biggest fundraisers, community members make and donate bowls, restaurants donate soup, and with a $20 dollar donation you get a new bowl and a chance to sample soup from the local restaurants.
A group of NMSU graduate students saw the event as an opportunity to provide therapy for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, while giving the patients a chance to give back.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia often result in loss of cognitive functioning and both short and long term memory loss. Trevor Harris, a graduate student at NMSU studying communication disorders says this can often make patients feel isolated from the community.
Harris and a group of students at NMSU wanted to find a way to help the residents at the Arbors of Del Rey reconnect with the community, while still providing therapy.
“Combining both cognitive and kinesthetic therapy,” Harris said. “And also helping the community. And empty bowls was a great avenue for that. We felt that using the clay, that tactile sensation it really helped soothe the residents here and they love doing crafts. So it was a great combo to not only have them do that but have them do it for a purpose.”
Harris says there is a reason that crafts are something the residents like to focus on.
“Doing things like this relaxes the residents,” Harris said. “A lot of times the during the day they get confused and irritated, and while they are doing a project that takes their mind away from certain extraneous circumstances or thoughts they kind of focus in on these kinds of projects and they get engulfed in it. And it really helps them and soothes them and gets their breathing right and it’s just really beneficial overall.”
He says watching the residents make the bowls was also a demonstration of how the disease progresses.
“In Alzheimer’s or Dementia there is usually three stages,” Harris said. “There is high functioning, middle functioning and low functioning. So we had all three ranges working on these bowls, and you could really see the translation of the progression in their bowls. And when you look at all of them you can see that there are some that are really beautiful and some that are a lot more interpretive, but it’s really what the disease has done to these individuals.”
Harris said the bowls also provided a look at the personalities of the patients, something you don’t always get to see.
“You can see the kind of things that they liked,” Harris said. “Or the kind of colors that they liked, or how they wanted to make the bowl. Those kinds of things come out. And they are things that normally you might not see from these individuals. It’s something that sparked a memory or a thought or a preference a long time ago. It came out, so that was really cool to see as well.”
The Potter’s Guild of Las Cruces provided the clays and glazes for the residents, and NMSU’s art department fired the finish bowls in their kiln. The Empty Bowls Fundraiser will be held this Friday at 11:00 at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.