ANNOUNCER: Sarina was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1999. As the disease progressed, her husband John grew concerned about her behavior.
JOHN: She would sit there, become far more agitated and get up and walk around, and it was destructing in terms of my being able to do what I have to do and take care of her at the same time.
ANNOUNCER: In response, in 2004, a physician suggested re-introducing a once treasured activity, painting.
BARRY REISBERG, MD: She used to be a graphic designer. She had artistic skills. The kind of art that she's doing now is different. But she was able to take some of her prior skills and apply it to her very new situation in life.
JOHN: I had two books actually, Cézanne and Matisse, and took elements out of his still life paintings and enlarged them on a copy machine and embellished on them. We have like seven different subject matters that I put on larger boards. She'll be working on a painting and then she'll lift it up to me and say -- and I say, “Wonderful,” you know, and a little applause. And she gets a big smile on her face and has a great -- grand time.
ANNOUNCER: Once Sarina starting painting again, her behavior changed dramatically.
JOHN: So, you know, she's become far more social as a result of this and it's all really helped. The sense of dignity, of self esteem has come up tremendously.
ANNOUNCER: Sarina's treatment continues to include medications indicated for advanced Alzheimer's, donepezil and memantine. And continuing to utilize her artistic abilities may also contribute to slowing the disease.
BARRY REISBERG, MD: The medications are helping to slow the progression of her disease. I also believe that the care that's being provided to her and the opportunities that she's creating for herself in terms of her ability to take advantage of the care and to be creative are helping also, I think, to in some ways slow the progression of the disease.
JOHN: I mean this is the fascinating part. I mean what I've learned from this actually is the fact, you know, that there is that part of the brain that obviously has had tremendous training and is still functioning, so she's able to you know, bring it back. There are certain elements here, where even though it's a two-dimensional drawing, she manages to still comprehend a three-dimensional object. So the line drawing, you know, suddenly becomes three-dimensional, rather than just a flat color. And this is the thing that always amazes me because I keep watching to see, you know, is it going to go away, but it doesn't.
ANNOUNCER: Sarina's Alzheimer's continues to progress, but exercising her creativity has helped improve her overall quality of life.
JOHN: Now, you now, she's relaxed and she gets up, walks around, comes back. Sometimes she takes a painting into the living room, you know, and I find her in there doing it. But it's just helped you know, tremendously for both of us. So I become the beneficiary actually of what she's doing now.