Art therapy has proven to be a powerful tool for treating Alzheimer’s disease. More than giving patients something pretty to look at or an exercise to keep them busy, it stimulates the brain. It stirs memories and can bring language back into the life of someone who struggles to speak. Learn more about how art therapy affects the brain. Studies show that art therapy gives back to Alzheimer’s patients, in some part, what the disease has taken away. It stimulates the senses, can trigger dormant memories and encourages conversation. Whether they’re viewing or creating art themselves, Alzheimer’s patients can use it as a form of expression, particularly individuals who can’t communicate verbally. Patients don’t necessarily recover lost words through this treatment, but can explore a new vocabulary.
Connecting Alzheimer’s and Community Arts
A recent article in USA Today describes how art therapy can awaken patients in cognitive decline. It can inspire a senior with limited speech to use a paintbrush to communicate, and it can lessen aggressive behavior. At Harrison Terrace, a senior living facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, art and dance classes are used to help connect seniors with memories from their past. In addition, art offers a chance to connect socially, helping lower the sense of isolation that often accompanies Alzheimer’s.
The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) hosts an annual art contest that encourages and recognizes artistic skills of senior living residents nationwide. At Emeritus, a senior community that runs its own residential art contest, art is promoted as a means of stimulating and strengthening the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. In fact, during renovations over the next two years, Emeritus plans to donate 10,000 pieces of art to other nonprofits and senior centers as a way to share the beauty of art.
To further the use of art as an Alzheimer’s therapy, the I’m Still Here Foundation started its Artists for Alzheimer’s (ARTZ) initiative. ARTZ has developed cultural programs that provide over 10,000 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients access to community arts and cultural events. The idea is to enhance the lives of Alzheimer’s patients and reduce their symptoms.
Art Inspires Memories Art therapy won’t eliminate the illness, but it can stimulate the brain in a new direction.
The creativity and happiness that art brings can make all the difference in the life of a loved one who’s been progressively in decline.