Art as Therapy for People with Dementia

March 17, 2020

Art therapy has many benefits for adults with dementia. Learn about a few of the most common ones here.

Art makes the world better in a variety of ways. From enjoying the beauty of a watercolor painting to using art for self-expression, creativity has many benefits. An increasing amount of research shows engaging in creative activities improves the lives of adults with dementia.

Art as Therapy for Adults with Memory Impairment

How does art benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia?

Here are a few of the many benefits the creative process provides:

  • Sense of accomplishment

People with dementia often have short-term memory loss. It makes it more difficult to stay on task and complete projects. This can leave them feeling defeated. Arts and crafts can be very empowering. That’s because it is the actual process of creating, rather than the finished project, that encourages a sense of accomplishment.

  • Reduced agitation and anxiety

Dementia often causes seniors to feel anxious or agitated. When they are participating in art projects, however, they are more likely to remain focused and engaged. Painting, drawing, or molding clay can provide an adult with memory impairment something tangible to focus on. This may help reduce anxiety and boost mood.

  • A means of self-expression

Dementia impacts different areas of the brain, but almost always affects those associated with language. It reduces a person’s verbal skills and their ability to communicate effectively.

Art therapy utilizes part of the brain different from that used for language. That means while an adult with some form of dementia may struggle with speech, having a creative outlet can offer another means for self-expression.

  • Opportunity to socialize

Depending on what stage of dementia the senior is experiencing, they may be able to participate in art classes. Some Alzheimer’s organizations and adult day centers offer workshops for people with all forms of dementia. This gives the senior an opportunity to socialize with peers.

If your local community doesn’t offer any, you could host your own. Invite family members to join you in creating art. It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind if you decide to host a dementia art project:

  • Make sure the project is age-appropriate. Activities that are too childish can be demeaning to the senior.
  • Because adults with dementia may put things that look interesting in their mouth, use safe, non-toxic materials.
  • Family members can help their loved one get started by showing them how to mold clay or paint the first few strokes but should step back afterward. That allows the senior to feel more independent and empowered.
  • Provide older adults with positive feedback, not criticism.

If the event is a success, you could consider hosting it on a regular basis. Ask loved ones to help you come up with a new project for each meeting.

State-of-the-Art Memory Care at Legacy

As part of our commitment to serving older adults whose lives have been impacted by memory disorders, we are continuously exploring ways to provide our memory care residents with meaningful activity. From art therapy to music and movement, you’ll find a variety of programs designed to support success. Call the Legacy Senior Living community nearest you to learn more or to schedule a private tour.