Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project

The Vault @ Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery

Exhibition from 1 May till 21 June 2020
Our Exhibition has been put on hold –
1 Barolin St, Bundaberg Central QLD 4670

Exhibition Statement:

What is the symbolism of leaves and people living with dementia?

In the process of change when the leaf turns into a different colour and character it may still hold onto the tree before finally drifting down to the ground to rest. The life cycle is a process of growth and rebirth.

The leaves remind us that people living with dementia leave behind a rich tapestry of colour and character that forms an indelible imprint on the family and friends to serve as a foundation for new growth and fuel for renewal. Even at this stage of the life cycle we recognise the beauty in fallen leaves as much as the beauty and story of everyone throughout their stages of dementia.

Cynthia Hoogstraten – Josephina Beckers – Kay Shelton

Artist Statement:

Cynthia Hoogstraten

Cynthia is a local artist, Dementia Friend and Dementia Advocate. Her personal journey caring for her Father and studying Dip. of Dementia Care led her to creating awareness of personhood in Dementia through the painting of symbolic leaves.

Josephina Beckers

Josephina is a Brisbane based artist. After obtaining her graduate diploma of art psychotherapy in September 2017 she started working with people living with dementia in the aged care sector and assisting at the art and dementia program in the Queensland Art Gallery.

Kay Shelton

Kay is a local artist, very attuned to connecting with people of all ages, enjoying their story and invitational to them sharing their journey and expressing it creatively through art. Kay is also very connected to nature and thoroughly enjoys the symbolism of this project and connecting with the creators of the painted leaves, seeing their enjoyment at getting to choose colours, play, create and speak about their life.

An Impression . . .

An Interview . . .

The Media about ‘The Leaf Project’:


MEMORIES are precious and like a tree when it can no longer preserve its leaves, the colour may fade but the beauty will always remain.

This is one of the many powerful messages Cynthia Hoogstraten, Josephina Beckers and Kay Shelton hope to convey in their upcoming art exhibition, Dementia is a Person: The Leaf Project.

Displaying a selection of bright-coloured leaves with intricate patterns, each leaf has been handpainted by a participant that has Dementia or Alzheimers.

“I always let participants choose the colours, because a lot of them have had choices taken away from their life, so at least they could choose their colours and how they painted the leaves reveals a lot about who they are,” trained art therapist Ms Beckers said.

“When the brain doesn’t communicate with the hand and they do something creative like painting, that connection re-establishes itself and what I saw many times was that they become a whole person again.”

The artistic trio started working on the project when they each had their own experience with the devastating impact of the disease.

“My Dad had Dementia and when he wasn’t able to speak anymore, I began bringing a different activity, like painting or music, so I could still connect with him,” Ms Hoogstraten said.

“Leaves symbolise the circle of life and the dead leaves that fall off a tree might be disregarded, but if you stop to pick it up, look at it and embellish it, you will see that leaf still has a lot of beauty, quality and individualism,” Ms Hoogstraten said

Some participants selected colours to represent water and fire and the environmental challenges that Australia had been experiencing at the time.

Anyone who wishes to submit painted leaves to the project, is welcome.

The free exhibition will open on May 1, at 5.30pm, at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery on Barolin St.

Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery:

Bundaberg Regional Council has announced the closure of the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery to protect against COVID-19 (Coronavirus). We will keep you informed about a new date for the opening event.

The Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) is a large multi-purpose visual arts facility located in the heart of Bundaberg City, and is within walking distance to major shopping centres, cafes and restaurants and the Riverside Parklands.

The Gallery boast a year-round program of local, touring and national art exhibitions, visiting artists, workshops, artist talks, educational programs, kids activities, guided tours, gift shop facilities, artist-in-residence apartment, public outreach programs and much more.

Our opening has been put on hold . . .

For information about dementia, advice or support, phone the National Dementia Helpline 1800 100 500

Dementia is a Person – The Leaf Project – Facebook Group

Follow us via our Facebook Group (click here) or via this webpage.

Comments Box SVG iconsUsed for the like, share, comment, and reaction icons

2 days ago

Looking for community members interested in starting a chapter in Bundaberg. Please message me if this is something you wish to be involved in. ... See MoreSee Less

Looking for community members interested in starting a chapter in Bundaberg. Please message me if this is something you wish to be involved in.Image attachment

2 weeks ago

National Symposium Series 2020 - Starts 4 August 2020 ... See MoreSee Less

2 months ago

Of life and death ... See MoreSee Less

Comment on Facebook 305884557042822_380045016293442

What may seem gone, still holds life and beauty just like loved ones living with Dementia.

Thanks Ronald Preuss for these meaningful photos.

2 months ago

Help keep the world open ... See MoreSee Less

2 months ago

Each an individual creation, just like our loved ones living with Dementia. ... See MoreSee Less

Each an individual creation, just like our loved ones living with Dementia.

Comment on Facebook Each an individual ...

Individual indeed... art comes from the heart ❤️

3 months ago

Music is another doorway to people living with Dementia. ... See MoreSee Less

3 months ago

It took several visits to the nursing home before Eunice agreed to paint with me. Her excuses were that she had to clean her room, or that she was going out or she didn't have time. All these responses are the disease talking. Learning the cues and changing tactics, Eunice eventually agreed to a morning of painting and conversation. She was such a delight and loved the process. ... See MoreSee Less

It took several visits to the nursing home before Eunice agreed to paint with me. Her excuses were that she had to clean her room, or that she was going out or she didnt have time. All these responses are the disease talking. Learning the cues and changing tactics, Eunice eventually agreed to a morning of painting and conversation. She was such a delight and loved the process.

Comment on Facebook It took several ...

Awesome outcome. Your gentle, caring nature won over yet another lovely person. So proud of what you do, Cynthia Hoogstraten. ❤

Well done to Eunice ❤

Hi Eunice, how is she , Cynthia?

Thank you so much Cynthia.💕


Thank goodness you persevered. So much to enjoy through the connection of art play.

This warms my heart

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3 months ago

[Shirl Turner]( Dear Cynthia Hoogstraten

This brought tears to my eyes. So so beautiful and close to home. I have lived in the isolating world of Dementia with my husband. Carers burnout drove me to the brink of despair. My ties are no longer with the man I truly loved. I had to walk away. I had to put on my own life jacket and survive. This is the most profound creation. The silence in these images speak a thousand words. Blessings to you for this very healing project. ❤
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Comment on Facebook 305884557042822_352215532409724

Realm of Rhythm and Creativity by Cynthia Hoogstraten Thank you Shirl Turner, for your comments. If you were the only one to have commented, this Project would have been worth it. Sadly it is not an uncommon journey that loved ones and carers have to face. I hope you don't hold any guilt as I am sure you did your best at the time. May you hold onto the good memories Edit or delete this Like · Reply · 14h Shirl Turner Shirl Turner Thank you Cynthia. No guilt. I am healing beautifully. My heart and soul is filled with the love of my darling man. Focusing only on the good times we had in the 10 years we were together. Please feel free to use my comments for your exhibition. Thank you for this opportunity to express myself. I am filled with gratitude. ❤ Delete, hide or report this Like · Reply · Message · 30m


Blessings to you Cynthia for inclusion of this group. It really means a lot to me.

I miss my mum ( RIP 2009) . She was slowly dementing . But I promised her she would never go into a NH. I cared for her , visiting her in her ILU daily. Many other residents were so kind and visited her taking her to activities when she forgot. Sadly one of the symptoms of dementia is the inability to eat slowly, chew well and control swallowing . She aspirated when vomiting - developed chest infection - then pneumonia which took her to heaven. As a nurse ( now retired) I still bear the guilt of not watching for that symptom.

3 months ago

Love our contributions. Thanks Talitha Ann Herrick ... See MoreSee Less

Love our contributions. Thanks Talitha Ann Herrick

3 months ago

"Today is My Favourite Day" ... See MoreSee Less

Today is My Favourite DayImage attachment

3 months ago

Congratulations Josephina Mayawa Beckers and Kay Shelton. proud of our connection and effort, 5 years in the making. ... See MoreSee Less

Comment on Facebook 350453985919212

What a fantastic idea .. My father has been diagnosed with parkinsons dementia and Alzheimers and it's great to see that this sector has not been forgotten . I'm inspired to do this at home .


Thank you Cynthia and Josephine. This has been a wonderful experience connecting with people at this creative, interactive level.

So beautiful!💖


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3 months ago

When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in an Australian country town, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.
Later, when the nurses were going through his meager possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.

One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.

And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet.

Cranky Old Man

What do you see nurses? . . .. . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . .. with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. . ... . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . .'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . .. . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not . . . ... lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking?. .Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse .you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . . . . .. As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, .. . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . .with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . .. . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . .. with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows .. .. .that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . .I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . .. . . . . My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . .. With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. .have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, .. ...Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing .. . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . .. and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. .. . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone . . . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years, all too few . . .. gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people .. . . . .. . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man .
Look closer . . . . see .. .. . .. .... . ME!!

Remember this poem when you next meet an older person who you might brush aside without looking at the young soul within. We will all, one day, be there, too!

The best and most beautiful things of this world can't be seen or touched. They must be felt by the heart!

Alive After
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The Survival Social Network...
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Comment on Facebook When an old man died...

I have heard this beautiful poem before. Very thought provoking ❤

I first read this in a Brisbane newspaper in 1975. I cut it out and still have it somewhere. Back then though, it was a lady in an English nursing home. Wherever it came from, it's very poignant and beautiful 🧡

3 months ago

Each leaf, like each individual living with Dementia, has a purpose and beauty. ... See MoreSee Less

Each leaf, like each individual living with Dementia, has a purpose and beauty.

Comment on Facebook Each leaf, like each...

This fills me with deep emotion. So beautiful. Blessings ❤ ❤

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