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The Picture of Health: How Art Therapy Improves the Lives of Loved Ones with Alzheimer’s

“There is no better deliverance from the world than through art; and a man can form no surer bond with it than through art.”Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Art has always been viewed as one of mankind’s highest forms of self-expression. Now, the power of art is being harnessed to enable individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to express themselves and reconnect with the world around them – all while providing important health benefits in the process.

The Healing Power of Expression

Crystal Yost, Program Director of Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr, says, “Today, leading memory care assisted living communities are incorporating a variety of holistic therapies, including art, that have proven effective in enabling loved ones with Alzheimer’s to escape the limitations of their disorder and express themselves in meaningful and beneficial ways. For example, research experts tell us that art therapy helps loved ones to express their feelings when they can no longer do so with words. Additionally, art can help them to feel less lonely and isolated, as well as to instill a sense of calm that reduces their stress, restlessness and agitation."

In the Mayo Clinic article, Alzheimer's Stops Where Creativity Begins, Sara Tucker, M.A, an Art Therapist and Early-Stage Services Manager for the Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter of The Alzheimer's Association, explains that art stirs us in many ways, “It has the ability to alter the mind, affect our behavior, emotions and our relationships with others. Art fosters health, communication and expression to promote the integration of physical, emotional, cognitive and social functioning. For people living with Alzheimer's disease, this truly is important,” she said.

The late Dr. Gene Cohen, former Director of the Center on Aging at George Washington University, observed, “Even with the loss of memory, the capacity for imagination still has its place. That is one reason there has been increasing attention to art for people with Alzheimer's. Even as memory fades, the imagination has the capacity to be robust.”

The Tangible Benefits of Art Therapy

Researchers and art therapy experts suggest that art therapy offers several key benefits for individuals with Alzheimer’s, including:

  • Helps reduce stress, fear and anxiety
  • Improves mood and decreases agitation and outbursts
  • Increases ability for self-expression and communication
  • Enables social engagement and reduces isolation
  • Enhances memory and the ability to reminisce
  • Provides an important sense of accomplishment and purpose
  • Improves ability to focus
  • Awakens a sense of interest and curiosity
  • Rekindles the ability to form relationships, particularly with the person providing the therapy

Using Art Therapy with Your Loved One at Home

If you are interested in trying art therapy with your loved one at home, the Alzheimer’s Association provides some very useful tips to help get you started. According to their article, “Music, Art and Alzheimer's,art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose, as well as an opportunity for self-expression. When planning an art activity for someone with middle- to late-stage Alzheimer's, it is recommended that you keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep the project on an adult level. Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem child-like.
  • Build conversation into the project. Provide encouragement: discuss what the person is creating or reminiscence. 
  • Help the person begin the activity. If the person 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. 
  • Allow plenty of time. Keep in mind that the person doesn’t have to finish the project in one sitting.

By following these tips, you can provide your loved one at home with a pleasant diversion that also provides a variety of physical, emotional and social benefits.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Our brand-new Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr community provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comforts of home. Our community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family,” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If, and when, the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again. For more information, please call Sharon at (484) 380-5400, or contact us online.

Disclaimer: This information should not be construed as Impressions at Bryn Mawr Terrace or Main Line Senior Care Alliance offering legal advice. For legal advice, please consult your attorney.