Art stimulates the brain and can help bring back memories and reignite speech which is why it is so helpful for people with Alzheimer’s. Patients can use it as a form of expression when their other senses are failing them.
While art therapy won’t eliminate the disease it can help improve cognitive function and allow the patient to express themselves, in turn helping relieve symptoms like aggression. According to the Alzheimer’s Association “art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose.”
When planning an art project for someone with Alzheimer’s keep it on an adult level, use non-toxic materials and allow plenty of time for the completion of the art. Any time dedicated to creating art should be in a relaxing and peaceful environment.
Alzheimer’s patients often get very frustrated because they can no longer communicate with the world around them in the same way they used to be able to. Creating art is a way for them to communicate and create something. This gives them a purpose and a sense of accomplishment.
The 2009 documentary I Remember Better When I Paint showcases an example of how art therapy helps improve the lives of people living with Alzheimer’s. The way the disease works, short-term memory and speech are affected much earlier in the diseases progression. Creativity and emotion remain much further into the progression of the disease. This allows for this kind of expression through art therapy for patients in later stages of the disease.
There are numerous first-hand experiences boasting the success of art therapy for dementia patients but research is lacking evidence. The trials that have happened have been small trials that lack focus. Funding for trials would come from the government where they are focused on biological, preventative measures. However, the first-hand accounts of the success of art therapy in bettering a patient’s life gives hope.