For people with Alzheimer’s disease, art and music therapy can provide outlets for communication and connections with the past, even after memories and speaking ability are diminished.
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia in which the nerve cells in the brain die. People with Alzheimer’s gradually lose the ability to recall words and understand conversation, which makes communication very difficult.
They may not recognize friends and family members and may become confused, angry, restless or fearful.
Both art and music therapy can improve quality of life for people with Alzheimer’s disease by helping them engage with caregivers and find outlets to express emotion even after their dementia has progressed.
Art therapy is a mental health profession practiced by certified therapists who use art media, the creative process, and artwork produced by clients, for a variety of goals, including exploring feelings and emotions and improving self esteem.
People with Alzheimer’s disease can create art projects under the guidance of a caregiver or as part of a treatment plan under the supervision of a certified art therapist.
The creative process can provide an outlet for emotions and may be a means of communicating as the ability to speak and understand conversation diminishes.
Painting can help an Alzheimer’s patient tell a story or remember a place or event in the past. Subjects for painting may be a memory from childhood such as building a snowman, or the house where the patient grew up.
The act of creating art can help young children connect with a grandparent as the disease progresses. It can also give caregivers and patients something to talk about together as the painting is in progress and after it is finished.
Take care to use materials that are non-toxic and safe if swallowed, and avoid sharp objects. Some patients may need help getting started, such as a reminder as to how to paint the first few brushstrokes.
Allow ample time for the project and remember that the process of creating artwork is as important as finishing the project.