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What are the benefits of art therapy for dementia care?

Posted in Why Flourish?

Delve into the creative therapy tactic and how it works as an effective form of memory care

More than 6 million people in the United States alone are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s estimated that by 2050 that number will more than double to reach nearly 13 million people. [1]

While dementia is a general decline in mental ability that interferes with daily life, Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that’s the most common cause of dementia. Regardless of the cause, all forms of dementia do not have a cure, but a variety of treatments have been used to slow down the progress and reduce symptoms.

One of these dementia treatments that’s quickly gaining popularity is art therapy which uses the creative process to improve mental, physical, and emotional wellness. 

Continue reading to learn more about the benefits of art therapy and how it can be used as an effective form of dementia care.  

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a mental health practice that combines psychotherapeutic techniques with the creative process of art to improve mental, physical, and emotional wellness. There are a variety of techniques used in art therapy including drawing, painting, coloring, sculpting or collage and you don’t need to have any artistic abilities to participate.

While you can work with a professional art therapist, the therapeutic benefits of art can also be found through simple activities in your own home such as journaling or sketching.

Read more:

The ultimate guide to senior mental health 

What are the benefits of art therapy?

Art therapists work to allow people to explore self-expression through the creative process which in turn fosters the development of new coping skills and personal insights.

The benefits of art therapy include:

  • Improved cognitive and sensorimotor functions
  • Increased self-esteem and self-awareness
  • Better emotional resilience 
  • Enhanced social skills
  • Reduced stress, and 
  • Providing a healthy outlet for emotions. [2]  

Is art therapy effective as a form of memory care?

While art therapy can be beneficial for people of all ages, older adults with memory issues, cognitive impairment, and especially Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias have been shown to benefit from the therapy’s healing powers.

Dementia has no cure, but art therapy is a form of sensory stimulation for the brain that can bring up dormant memories and even encourage speech. It’s also a great way for those with dementia to feel productive and accomplished through a form of nonverbal expression.

In recent years, increasingly more research has been conducted to study the effects of art therapy for those living with dementia. These studies have shown that art therapy can help dementia patients improve attention and orientation, reduce behavioral and psychological symptoms, and improve social skills. [3]   

Many family members of those with dementia find that their loved one enjoys art therapy and immediately notices the positive cognitive and behavioral effects after a session.

Read more:

4 tips for avoiding caregiver burnout for dementia care

What are some good art projects for dementia patients?

Stimulating activities like art therapy are important for people living with dementia to engage in because they can create good moments, hours or days.

The best art projects for dementia patients are individualized to the person’s current abilities and built on personal passions and memories to set them up for success and enjoyment.

Try considering one of these activities for art therapy:

  • Sculpting clay or dough
  • Watercolor painting
  • Painting by numbers
  • Charcoal or pencil sketching, and
  • Creating jewelry or greeting cards.

Remember to keep the art project at an adult level, you don’t want to suggest anything that could be demeaning or childish. It’s also important to allow for plenty of time and allow the artist to finish their piece in as many sittings as they prefer.

art therapy projects

Art therapy projects by a Flourish in Place client
with early onset Alzheimer’s disease

To conclude

Art therapy is an extremely effective mental health practice that can benefit children, teens, adults and seniors alike. For older adults living with dementia, the benefits of art therapy can be seen in positive cognitive, behavioral, and psychological effects. The creative therapy should be considered by family members of aging loved ones with dementia to not only improve their symptoms, but allow them to find joy and accomplishment through art.

How does Flourish in Place use art therapy? 

Art therapy is one of the many activities for people with dementia that we provide at Flourish in Place as part of our specialized brain care and dementia care services.

In each art therapy session, our caregiver provides a variety of projects and cognitive activities to build trust and watch for signs of interest in different media. 

“While providing a new experience or recalling a forgotten experience is important, the end result of any given [art] project or activity is not as important as the ability to feel joy and progress and realize [you] can be successful and build self esteem,” explains Flourish in Place caregiver Vandie Loper.  

Ready to experience the Flourish in Place difference?

Please request your Free Consultation to begin your journey with us!

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1: Alzheimer’s Association | Facts and Figures

2: American Art Therapy Association | About Art Therapy

3: ScienceDirect | Advances in art therapy for patients with dementia

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