Art is comparable to magic. Some noble pursuits are necessary to living, but art is what makes us feel alive. It kept us sane through lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It served as platforms for societal change. This powerful tool transcends all sorts of limits—even memories that dementia prevents seniors from experiencing in Alzheimer’s senior living.
Moreover, it is no surprise that the benefits of art therapy techniques are incorporated into Alzheimer’s senior living. Art therapy provides the following benefits for seniors living with Alzheimer’s:
Art is effective. More than the aesthetic, it appeals to our emotions. Perhaps, you’ve seen Van Gogh’s Starry Night, and it stimulated feelings of despair within you. Maybe you’ve heard “La Vie En Rose”, and it made you happy. Through the years, you may not exactly remember the details of the painting or the lyrics of the song, but the feeling it brought you remains vivid. This is because the amygdala (the emotion center of the brain) sits just before the hippocampus (the part responsible for long-term memory retention).
This is the same way that art-based therapies can aid cognition. It communicates through emotions and evokes personal memories. Showing seniors photographs from the past can trigger responses, but asking them to draw from that photo may revive the faintest of emotions and help them reminisce.
Increases Brain Stimulation
Can you believe that some dementia patients may not be able to recall memories but can still perform artistic skills such as drawing and playing an instrument? This is linked to the capabilities of procedural or muscle memory, which is further enhanced in art therapy.
Art-based therapies in Alzheimer’s senior living do not eliminate dementia but rather provide interventions that may slow cognitive deterioration. This roots from the theory of brain lateralization. Where areas in the “academic brain” (which manages logic, language, and reasoning) are deteriorated, the “art brain” processes information. It transmits it to the left brain to stimulate memory and thinking. To put it simply, art helps the mind find a new communication path. This is how forms of art, such as melodies and colors, stimulate brain function in areas where semantic memories lose relevance.
Allows a New Form of Self-Expression
Anger, sadness, extreme happiness, or even their creativity alone may sometimes be difficult to convey for seniors hindered with dementia. When the usual communication skills are deteriorated, brushes and colors could be the right resort. Creative activities open the way for a whole new form of non-verbal communication. One great example is the artist William Utermolhen, whose artwork documented and visually conveyed his journey through gradual memory loss. When seniors feel frustrated or blissful, art paves the way to new modes of communication where they can freely express themselves. With art as a tool, their feelings are no longer caged.
Leads to Social Interactions
Dementia is difficult, because it deprives seniors of basic physiological functions as well as social interactions. Loss of sensations come with its onset. Seniors may often feel detached from their existing surroundings and may become isolated. Since art therapy sessions can rekindle emotional feelings, they also evoke responses. Some seniors who are unable to speak may begin to regain verbal communication, even impulsively. Whether they feel moved or awed with their artworks, simple reactions can sprout into regained communication skills. Soon, these responses can extend up to the people around them during art sessions. In turn, it leads to the briefest interaction.
It revives what dementia mostly deprives them of– intercommunication.
Creates a Sense of Achievement and Purpose
Utilizing their creativity can boost a sense of purpose and accomplishment amongst older adults with Alzheimer’s. Whether they are given the freedom to mix watercolors or paint, having something to draw their attention to promotes independence, mastery, and a sense of purpose. In the end, a finished canvas can make them feel accomplished. It gives them a sense of pride, knowing that they can contribute art that can be shared with others. Along with the cognitive benefits of art therapy, it develops confidence and enhances the sense of self amongst seniors.
Enhances Mood and General Well-Being
Loneliness, anxiety, and depression often accompany the progression of dementia. When their existing language skills prohibit them from expressing their emotions, seniors become more prone to these behavioral and psychological symptoms. They may also dwell upon crippling anxieties of their degenerative disease or may feel depressed due to tough transitions. This is when art therapy is vital. Through an intuitive graphical presentation, patients are given a more conducive form of venting out their negative emotions. Art also sparks positive emotions. For seniors with no verbal abilities, art can make them smile, laugh, speak, or move. The slightest of reaction despite their impairments is therapeutic. In turn, it fosters well-being and improves the overall quality of life.
Boosts Physical Strength and Dexterity
Engaging in Alzheimer’s senior living art activities from the simplest to most complex promotes mobility. Practicing art stimulates the parietal lobe, which is responsible for fine motor functions. Through exercising their hands, seniors maintain their hand-brain interaction, which improves motor skills and coordination. No matter the amount and extent of physical movement, constant mobility retains muscle function and promotes overall physical strength.
Art Makes Fun Moments
For seniors under memory care facilities, art therapy sessions make a great escape from sometimes dull living triggered by their incapacities. Whether they are suffering from other chronic illnesses or memory deterioration alone, a change of environment and the beauty of art can provide therapeutic effects. Opportunities through pottery, crafting, painting, drawing, or even playing musical instruments touch the heart and trigger feelings that the brain had long forgotten. Art therapy allows seniors to indulge in the healing benefits of aesthetics.
Battling Alzheimer’s may be overwhelming for seniors and their loved ones. Fortunately, Sabal Palms assisted living and memory care is dedicated to ensuring that your older loved ones are well-catered to in this journey. Through the incorporation art therapy in, seniors are allowed to experience their golden years through beauty.