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Maria Shriver’s coloring book for Alzheimer’s patients and their families

For families dealing with dementia, Maria Shriver developed a coloring book in collaboration with neurologists, psychologists and nursing home residents. (STEPHAN SAVOIA/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Maria Shriver has advice for people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers: Get crayons and markers. Then fill in the butterfly wings, balloons and other uplifting images on the pages of "Color Your Mind," a coloring book she developed in collaboration with neurologists, psychologists and nursing home residents.

It’s a personal project for the journalist, whose father, Sargent Shriver, was diagnosed with the disease in 2003 and died in 2011. As she explains in the book, one of her biggest challenges during that time was finding activities her family could do with him. This guide offers a collection of suggestions, each targeting a specific aspect of wellness and using a different drawing prompt.

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So alongside a page featuring a dozen identical flowers, Shriver promotes the importance of establishing a regular schedule. Her suggestion? “Enjoy the repetition of the image. . . . As you color new design pieces, enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as you complete more and more of the page.”

Shriver follows that up with a few ideas that go beyond the picture. To “connect,” you can consider new routines you’d like to introduce and write down a specific goal for tomorrow. Each page ends with a way to “reflect” — in this case, it’s a reminder to think about habits from your youth.

No artistic skill is required to participate. The “How to Use This Book” intro even gives you permission to color with whatever level of complexity makes you comfortable. (Don’t want to deal with lots of little dots on that cupcake? Make the whole thing purple.)

What’s important, Shriver emphasizes, is finding outlets for self-expression. “Remember that the point isn’t an ‘end result,’ but rather the process of trying something new and finding ways to engage, connect, and enjoy life,” she writes. That’s just beside an image of a guitar in a garden. Her recommendation: “Be as bold and free as you like in choosing colors.”

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