ALTOONA, Wis. — Employees at 20 nursing homes in Wisconsin are receiving training to use poetry as a method of reaching residents with dementia.

The effort known as the national Alzheimer's Poetry Project has so far been taught across 32 states and seven countries, the Leader-Telegram reported.

Gary Glazner founded the project. He said staff learns different methods and techniques to create poetry sessions and for other activities.

"It's a privilege to be able to be part of their lives and hopefully have some effect, make it a little bit funny and humorous," Glazner said of the nursing home residents he works with. "Ultimately, it helps us reframe the story of dementia because we see that they will learn and they will get better at this, and that's not the story we tell with dementia."

River Pines is one of the Wisconsin nursing homes to receive this training. The program was introduced after the center was selected for a state grant, said Activity Director Karen Park.

Park said she thinks the program is a great way to get residents to connect with one another. She said it's also a different way for the staff to touch their lives.

"Arts can always just enrich their lives," Park said. "It brings in different emotions and feelings, and gives them something else to look forward to in their day."

Glazner said the project gives participants an improved quality of life.