Rachel Graf received her degree in Therapeutic Recreation Gerontology in 2020 from Lethbridge College in Alberta, Canada. She found a passion for working with older adults and building quality connections with those she interacts with. Rachel recently facilitated an OMA session for the first time in May 2022 at Drumheller Health Centre in Canada, where she works. She said, “My favorite part about working in recreation therapy is the relationships created with my residents.”
When asked about the most successful project, Rachel mentioned the Dream Catcher activity. “I would say the Dream Catcher art project was received as the most successful, and also the most challenging. Some clients struggled with the yarn and taping it down, but the overall outcome was incredible and every single client loved their Dream Catcher art piece.”
“I was shocked to see my paintings like this. I didn’t believe they were mine,” said Vivian, an OMA artist (painting by Vivian above).
When asked what OMA meant to her, Rachel said, “To me, OMA means acceptance. Acceptance that everyone is equal. Acceptance that we are all human. Acceptance that healthcare providers, and even just the general population, should be working and learning more about what Alzheimer’s/Dementia is and what we can do to help support people living with it. The stigma behind this disease needs to be broken and I find that OMA helps to bring awareness and share with people who ‘fear’ it that just because someone lives with it, doesn’t mean that they don’t have any capabilities anymore. The number of people from our community who said ‘They made that?’ was astonishing. I hope to keep sharing this program with our community.”
Advice for Launching an OMA Program
Rachel also shared some timely advice: “Reach out to people and ask questions! I was a little lost at first as to where I needed to start, but contacting Elizabeth (Like) and Meghan really helped and they gave me a lot of useful information on where to start. I am very fortunate to have great team members who were incredibly supportive in helping me get started. Start those conversations with those around you! I think another important lesson I learned throughout this program is that you can only do your best! Since I am the only facilitator running this program (at my location), it was a lot of work to get the sessions running, which could lead to feelings of burnt out, that I wasn’t doing enough, or something didn’t go as planned. But, I have learned from the experience and can make changes next time!”
Rachel Graf pictured above.
Impact on the Community
Rachel has made a big impact on the community, not just with the artists who participate in OMA, but also the volunteers. “It was a rewarding experience for me and the clients. It was amazing that in just six short weeks of interacting with clients, we could see more of what Dementia/Alzheimer’s truly is and how it works. Words cannot express how great the OMA program was for both volunteers and participants. Thank you, Rachel, for your passion and Alberta Health Services for this program,” Rosalie, OMA Volunteer.