Art Therapy: Painting a Picture of Renewed Expression and Engagement for Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s Disease

paintbrush and paint colorsBecause of Alzheimer’s destructive and progressive nature, individuals with the disease continue to deteriorate mentally and physically and lose their capacity for memory, speech and other forms of personal expression. Sadly, this means that loved ones lose their capabilities for social interaction and are rendered increasingly disconnected from the world around them.

Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers are finding that certain forms of holistic therapy are providing significant benefits to Alzheimer’s patients, enabling them to reconnect with the outside world in ways not thought possible. Art is one such activity that has proven to be beneficial as a therapy.

Art Has the Power to Free Minds and Enrich Lives

Experts in the field say that therapies that incorporate music, pets, art and other pleasurable activities are able to somehow “unlock” the individual’s mind and allow self-expression and social engagement that had been lost during the progression of the disease. For reasons that are not completely clear, these types of non-traditional therapies appear to create a bridge that enables loved ones to reconnect with the outside world.

Confirming its value, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) views art therapy as a legitimate form of beneficial treatment and defines it as “a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages.”

Art Therapy Offers Several Key Benefits

Proponents of art therapy assert that it promotes health and well-being in loved ones with dementia in a variety of highly beneficial ways. These include:

  • Improved mood and decreased agitation and outbursts
  • Increased ability for self-expression and communication
  • Increased social engagement and reduction of isolation
  • Providing an important sense of accomplishment and purpose
  • Enhanced memory and the ability to reminisce
  • Improved ability to focus
  • An awakened sense of interest and curiosity
  • A rekindled ability to form relationships, particularly with the person providing the therapy

Tips for Incorporating Art Therapy into Your Caregiving Plan

Creating an art therapy experience as part of your loved one’s plan of care can be very simple. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends the following tips when planning art activities for loved ones with mid-to late-stage Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Keep the project on an adult level. Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem child-like.
  • Build conversation into the project. Provide encouragement and discuss what your loved one is creating or reminiscing about.
  • Help your loved one begin the activity. If he or she is painting, you may need to start the brush movement. Most other projects should only require basic instruction and assistance.
  • Use safe materials. Avoid toxic substances and sharp tools that could hurt your loved one.
  • Allow plenty of time. Keep in mind that your loved one doesn’t have to finish the project in one sitting.

For caregivers who recognize that the needs of their loved one are beyond what they can safely and appropriately provide in the home environment, leading residential memory care assisted living communities (MCALs), such as North Woods Village at Edison Lakes and its “New Directions”SM program, provide the full continuum of services that have been shown to improve health and well-being, support brain health and delay the progression of memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

At North Woods Village at Edison Lakes, we believe senior adults thrive in an environment that offers an active, vibrant lifestyle with a variety of activities that engage the mind, body and spirit. Our “New Directions”SM provides a safe, professional environment and proven, best-practice programs and services specifically designed to address the total physical, emotional and social needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other serious form of memory impairment.

For more information on how North Woods Village can help you engage your loved one with Art Therapy, contact us today!