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Easing Alzheimer's with Art Therapy

March 6, 2017

If you are a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, you might think about getting creative and exploring the benefits of art therapy as a release from the frustration of coping with Alzheimer’s symptoms. “Although Alzheimer’s disease results in diminished cognition and function, art therapy can engage the brain of people with Alzheimer’s disease and promote interpretive and expressive abilities,” says Warachal Faison, MD, clinical services director for the Alzheimer’s Research.

 

Art therapist Ruth Abraham, author of When Words Have Lost Their Meaning: Alzheimer’s Patients Communicate Through Art, “Art therapy has been shown to be a powerful toll for people with Alzheimer’s. It helps them to express their feelings when they can no longer do so with words. This use of art helps people with Alzheimer’s feel less lonely and isolated. It can also calm their restlessness.”

 

Art therapy might be particularly beneficial to people with Alzheimer’s disease because though they gradually lose the ability to express themselves with words, other parts of their brain that deal with colors and composition can still be used and developed. Even people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease can continue to create art.

 

How does art therapy help someone with Alzheimer’s?

-       New way to communicate: Art therapy allows people with Alzheimer’s disease to connect with others in a different, non-verbal way. And it’s a healthy method of helping your loved one to express thoughts and feelings while letting go of some of the negative emotions they may be experiencing.

 

-       Improved concentration: Art therapy focuses on other possibly untapped areas of the brain and helps to improve concentration in people with Alzheimer’s. Art therapy emphasizes abilities that are still available and can be developed rather than focusing on those that have been lost.

 

-       Better behavior: Both viewing and creating art can have a calming effect on someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

-       Closer relationships: Art therapy can bring a caregiver and a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease closer together. When other methods of contact become difficult, art therapy reminds the caregiver that the person with Alzheimer’s is still there.

 

How can caregivers utilize art therapy at home?

-       Make an art project part of your regular routine:  Don’t worry about the result, just let the person with Alzheimer’s enjoy the process.

-       Provide safe and non-toxic materials: Watercolors a good choice for painting. Adult coloring books have gotten very popular lately; crayons or coloring pencils are suitable materials for those with Alzheimer’s to use.

 -       Establish friendships: Enroll your loved one in an art class with other people who have Alzheimer’s. This will help your loved one get involved with others and give you a much-needed break. You can also look into adult day care centers as they have plenty of art therapy classes.

 

-       Go to a museum: Seeing art is also a valuable part of art therapy. It can also give you and your loved one the opportunity to get out of the house, exercise, and spend quality time together.

-       Scrapbooking: Making a scrapbook is an increasingly popular activity that both caregivers and persons with Alzheimer’s can enjoy together. Pick out colorful backgrounds and choose favorite family photographs to bring back cherished memories.

 

To get the most out of art therapy, it’s most important that the caregiver set aside time to sit right next to the person and help them concentrate on the task. And above all, encourage, encourage, encourage. There is no right or wrong to art therapy. Let your loved one know that whatever they put on the page will be respected.

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