Art and Alzheimer’s

Art therapy can benefit those with a Dementia diagnosis. Art involves the use of sight, touch, and sometimes sound, so it can help build new receptors in the brain. The act of creating something can improve self-esteem and improve ones mood. Working with a licensed art therapist may provide the most benefit, but any type of art program can be enjoyable and empowering for one living in a memory care community. There are many different forms of art. Starting with coloring or painting is an excellent first step. If your loved one enjoys crafts, there are many different versions that may be fun. Finding the perfect art form for your loved one can help them alleviate anxiety and stress while doing something they enjoy. In addition to benefitting those who have dementia, art therapy can be beneficial for caregivers as well. If they are willing to participate, they too may have a reduction in stress as well as have the opportunity to engage in something and connect with their loved one. It can be a wonderful opportunity to make memories and create discussions.

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The Power of Music and Art for Dementia

Often times when we are looking for a miracle treatment, we will look for a pill or shot to be the answer for our ailments, very rarely do we think about taking a more natural approach to our health issues. Art, such as drawing or painting or listening to music are becoming more and more popular as more studies are concluding that they can play an important role in the treatment of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Painting and drawing can teach your loved one a nice lesson is free-form art. It allows your loved one to fully express themselves, something that comes with much difficulty if they are suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The colors they choose and the designs they create can help align with the mood they are in. It can help them, even if for a brief moment, feel more in control of their life. Loosing ones independence from some form of dementia can cause an increase of anxiety in an individual. But with the opportunity to be totally in control over what they are creating, along with the brain stimulation that comes with deciding on what to create, art therapy greatly reduces anxiety and improves peoples’ moods.

Specific memories sometimes have a special song that is attached to it. Music has the ability to attach various memories to various melodies. Listening to music requires little cognitive input to engage with music. Tapping your toe to a beat or humming along to a song can be done from the time you were one, all the way until you are one hundred. Again, music is another way to reduce anxiety that builds up in a patient with some form of dementia. Those with a cognitive impairment lose some of their independence. This often causes a feeling of loneliness. However, with music, a loved one can feel like they belong, because activities such as singing and dancing to a beat do not require as much brain power than playing a card game or board game. Music is a powerful tool of inclusion.

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Health and Cognitive Benefits

  • Music has been found to stimulate parts of the brain, and studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients, including a study conducted at UC Irvine, which showed that scores on memory tests of Alzheimer’s patients improved when they listened to classical music.
  • Cognitive and neural benefits of musical experience continue throughout the lifespan, and counteract some of the negative effects of aging, such as memory and hearing diffuculties in older adults.
  • Involvement in participatory arts programs has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health, physical health, and social functioning in older adults, regardless of their ability. The arts also contribute to communicating, building sense of identity, preserving or restoring social capital, and strengthening social networks in communities.
  • Research shows that music activities can influence older adults perceptions about the quality of their lives. Some research has examined the effects of music listening on biological markers of health and subjective perceptions of wellbeing. Other studies on the psychological and social benefits associated with music making activities have demonstrated that participants often place considerable value on these “nonmusical” benefits of music activity.
  • Music keeps your ears young. Older musicians don’t experience typical aging in the part of the brain that often leads to hearing troubles. It is never too late to start taking music lessons and prevent these age-related changes.
  • Playing music reduces stress and has been shown to reverse the body’s response to stress at the DNA-level according to studies conducted by Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems.
  • Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study with 30 depressed people over 80 years of age and found that participants in a weekly music therapy group were less anxious, less distressed, and had higher self-esteem.
  • Alzheimer’s patients who drum can connect better with loved ones. The predictability of rhythm may provide the framework for repetitive responses that make few cognitive demands on people with dementia.

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