3 Art Therapy Activities for Those with Alzheimer’s

3 Art Therapy Activities for Those with Alzheimer’s

When you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, it can be hard to find activities that bring meaning and joy to their life. Speech plays a crucial role in countless activities. As your loved one loses the ability to process language, these activities become harder and harder for them to enjoy. Because of this, the best activities for those living with Alzheimer’s are often activities that engage the non-verbal centers of the brain. 3 Art Therapy Activities for Those with Alzheimer’s

Art therapy has recently emerged as an effective therapeutic tool for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Through art therapy, individuals with Alzheimer’s can engage in an activity that is calming, mentally stimulating, and that provides a sense of achievement.

Perhaps most important of all, individuals with Alzheimer’s who take part in art therapy gain a non-verbal avenue to express themselves. This allows them to engage with their environment and communicate their innermost feelings, even as dementia makes verbal communication increasingly difficult.

Art Therapy for Dementia: Examples & Evidence

Evidence of art therapy’s benefits for those with dementia has grown substantially over the past two decades.

Lester Potts may be the most famous successful case of art therapy for dementia. Potts was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 70. As his condition progressed, his family enrolled him in a care center for those with dementia. At the care center, Potts was encouraged to try watercolor painting by an artist who worked at the center.

Potts would paint his first picture at the age of 72, and it soon became apparent that he has a natural talent for watercolors. Over the next four years, he produced over 100 paintings, many of which are now exhibited in books and online. Painting brought calm, joy, and purpose to the final years of Potts’ life, and led his son to launch one of the most successful art therapy programs in America.

Another famous case is Mary Hecht, a Canadian sculptor. Hecht suffered from severe vascular dementia affecting the language and memory centers in her brain. Despite this, she was able to produce perfect sketches of artworks she’d made earlier in life, scenes from her past, and people she had known. Hecht’s case showed researchers that even in cases of advanced dementia, areas of the brain key to producing and engaging with visual art remain active and healthy.

Many studies have also shown that art therapy has numerous benefits for those with dementia. Researchers have found that various art therapy programs can reduce stress, minimize anxiety, and improve mood. They’ve also found that art therapy can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and slow its progress. Art therapy even benefits family caregivers, lowering stress and giving them a non-verbal way to connect with their loved ones.

3 Art Therapy Ideas

Unsure which form of art therapy will work best for your loved one? Here are three art therapy activity suggestions from Visiting Angels CEO and President Larry Meigs.

  1. Nature Painting. “Research shows that interacting with nature — or even just seeing a picture of nature — can help lower stress levels,” Larry says. “Art therapy in your backyard garden can be an especially soothing activity. If you would prefer to stay inside, you can paint a still life of indoor plants, or use a photo of a natural scene as inspiration.”
  2. Reminiscence Painting. “Art therapy can be a great way to bring old memories to life. If your loved one is in the early or mid stages of Alzheimer’s, you can encourage them to paint a scene from their past, like their first home.”
  3. Abstract Art. “Individuals with Alzheimer’s often gravitate toward abstract art. It’s the freest form of visual expression, so it’s the perfect way for those with dementia to communicate their feelings non-verbally.”

In addition to the above suggestions, Larry offered tips for family caregivers who would like to try art therapy with their loved ones.

  • Treat the activity seriously. Don’t approach it like children’s arts-and-crafts time.
  • Make sure you purchase non-toxic materials.
  • Be patient. Give your loved one as much time as they wish to spend on the project.
  • At the start, your loved one may need guidance. You may provide this on your own, or you can reach out to local agencies providing Alzheimer’s care services for help with how to get started.

Finally, Larry suggests thinking outside the canvas and explore other art form. Drawing, sculpting, and scrapbooking are just a few of the other artistic activities your loved one might enjoy.

 3 Art Therapy Activities for Those with Alzheimer’s

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Richard Bitner

Visiting Angels is a national, private duty network of senior care agencies. We are proud to be the nation’s leading provider of non-medical at home care services. With our elder care services, seniors can remain independent and live safely at home. Our senior care services include Social Care, Dementia Care, Alzheimer’s Care, End of Life Care, Companion Care, Private Duty Care, care to prevent hospital readmission, and so much more.

Compassionate, dignified at home senior care is close to home when you connect with your local Visiting Angels office by calling 800-365-4189.

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