Most people agree that art makes life better for everyone. In particular, a growing amount of research indicates that creative activities carry numerous benefits for adults with all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
How Art Therapy Helps Adults With Alzheimer’s Disease
Sense of Accomplishment
Completing tasks can help someone gain a sense of accomplishment. However, Alzheimer’s disease can hinder a person’s ability to complete regular tasks, limiting their independence. With art therapy, the finished art or even the activity itself can help a loved one feel confident and successful.
Creating art requires concentration. Moving the paintbrush or molding a piece of clay can help a loved one with Alzheimer’s focus on something tangible. This can help reduce anxiety and improve their mood as they get caught up in the fun. Making smooth strokes with a paintbrush or marker is also soothing in itself.
Exercising the Brain
Dementia affects different parts of the brain, but it often impacts areas associated with language. This can reduce a person’s ability to communicate.
Art therapy exercises a part of the brain that is different from the area used in language. A person with Alzheimer’s may struggle with speech, but a creative outlet can stimulate a completely different area of the brain.
Because creative activity uses a different part of the brain, it can help loved ones with dementia communicate. Many people also find it easier to express emotions through art. Some adults with Alzheimer’s have painted images of memories that they otherwise struggle to talk about.
Artistic activities also may give loved ones and caregivers more to talk about. Caregivers can ask about the art project to help them better understand how their loved one is feeling.
Art is not just an activity for individuals. Depending on a loved one’s stage of dementia, they may be able to take local art classes, which can bring them into the community and help them meet new people.
Many senior communities and memory care programs offer art classes or activities. For adults who live at home, caregivers and other friends or family members can join them in creating art. These options can help loved ones socialize.
How to Bring Art Into a Senior Loved One’s Life
Caregivers can help their senior loved ones enjoy the benefits of art therapy in different ways.
● Consider painting, sculpture, drawing with large markers, or scrapbooking.
● Activities should be age-appropriate, not childish.
● The materials used, including paint or clay, should be safe and nontoxic.
● Make creativity a routine, such as once a week, to make it even more comforting.
● Caregivers can help their loved ones get started—such as by guiding the first stroke of the paintbrush—but otherwise let their loved ones take charge.
● Consider visiting a museum or watching art videos for inspiration.
● Use positive feedback and avoid criticism.
Memory Care at Randall Residence
Randall Residence offers a comprehensive Memory Care program for adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. We strive to meet each person’s unique needs to help them live a full life. Contact us to learn more.