alzheimer's care

Art Therapy for the Elderly

Artistic Expression Helps Seniors

Creative expression benefits seniors in many ways, including those with dementia. Imagination and creativity can flourish despite cognitive difficulties. New areas of potential can even be discovered that were never before realized. Creative expression benefits seniors in many ways, including those with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or other degenerative disorders.  According to Barbara Bagan PhD., older adults are in the final developmental stage where they must integrate their past, present, and future life experiences. When meaningful activities are pursued, seniors can achieve growth while overcoming feelings of longing and despair. Expressive art can also boost neural pathways by forging new and stronger dendritic connections which fight the effects of degenerative disease.

10 Reasons to use Art Therapy

  • Promotes relaxation. To strengthen this effect, create ambiance with soft music and minimum background noise.
  • Provides means of expression and communication. When words fail, art can provide a means to communicate and express experiences. Creating art can also be a wonderful time to invite your loved one to communicate with you verbally. Creativity may cause a usually quiet person to become more talkative.
  • Provides a sense of control. Avoid “taking over” or imposing assistance if it is not needed, by being sensitive about when to offer help. Make sure to recognize accomplishments, and avoid overly long creative sessions that might cause tiredness or frustration.
  • Improves socialization. When possible, group art activities can enhance feelings of social connection. If a group is not available, join in and make art together. Display your loved one’s art work where it can be seen.
  • Promotes playfulness and humor. Keep a light heart and look for moments to encourage play and humor.
  • Boosts cognitive functioning. Make the most of it by choosing a time of day when your loved one is at their best level of alertness and focus.
  • Stimulates the senses. Working with one’s hands in a variety of mediums and textures can provide an abundance of tactile stimulation. When possible, enhance this experience by taking your art session outdoors or near an open window. Play his or her favorite music. Create items that can stimulate the senses long after they are completed, through textures, scents, or memory recall.
  • Strengthens identity and self-esteem. Offer compliments and keep completed artwork displayed.
  • Engage Spirituality. When thinking of ideas for free-expression, provide prompts that invite your loved one to connect with spiritual concepts and values that are meaningful to them.
  • Alleviates boredom. Creative sessions don’t have to be initiated on a schedule. When possible, make materials accessible to your loved one so he or she can choose art activities at will.

Tips

You don’t have to break the bank. Art supplies can be quite inexpensive, and remember, the activities you choose don’t have to be complicated. Drawing, painting, or collage may be just the right thing, but really, the possibilities are endless. Beautifully designed coloring books for adults are now available which can provide hours of relaxation with just a handful of markers or colored pencils. If your loved one has a previous art hobby or interest, this may be the perfect time to encourage renewed interest. If not, providing a variety of new activities could result in a newly discovered passion. Remember to use caution and avoid unsupervised use of materials that could be a safety hazard. And don’t forget to allow opportunities for your loved one to experience and appreciate art created by others. A local co-op or museum may be a great choice for your next outing.

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