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Image of older woman enjoying the calming benefits of art therapy for dementia while painting a lighthouse in a group class.

Physical and emotional stress are part of daily life for your loved ones living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. As such, they experience a variety of anxieties that are caused by their inability to effectively connect with the world around them and express their thoughts or feelings.

Art therapy for dementia, when practiced correctly, can enrich the lives of older adults through creative processes. Think: 

  • painting
  • sketching
  • coloring
  • sculpting. 

Often, people consider these activities only as standard hobbies or distractions. Still, research shows that art therapy can dramatically improve physical and mental health.

So, how does art therapy help dementia? Let’s take a look.

The Benefits of Art Therapy for Seniors With Dementia

The practice of art therapy is a result of the idea that creative and artistic expression can promote healing and improve mental health. It’s used to help people explore their emotions, cope with stress, calm anxieties, boost self-esteem, and connect with others.

Here’s a more in-depth overview of the benefits:

Improved Mood

Because older adults are more susceptible to negative feelings, a little artistic exploration can go a long way in improving their mood. Several studies back this up, too, showing that arts and crafts can reduce those feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress.

According to a 2016 study published in the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association, it takes just one hour of creative activity to reduce stress, regardless of skill level. This means even those who struggle with doodling can still reap the rewards. 

Enhanced Motor Skills

Artistic expression isn’t just about connecting with thoughts and feelings. It’s about improving physical health, too. Painting, drawing, and sculpting all require the active engagement of various muscle groups through movement. This increases strength, improves coordination, enhances blood flow, and builds better dexterity.

Not to mention the fact that this sort of activity or exercise registers so low on the intensity scale that the risk of injury is virtually non-existent.

Greater Self-Expression

The frustrations that accompany cognitive decline are usually brought on by an inability to express feelings through verbal communication. Art therapy for dementia provides an alternative method, giving seniors a chance to communicate freely through various creative processes. As a result, they may find new ways to cope with grief or loss and establish stronger connections with their loved ones and caregivers.

Increased Social Interaction

Older adults living with Alzheimer’s or dementia often feel isolated. It’s a common experience compounded by difficulties keeping up with conversation and expressing thoughts and ideas.

Art therapy for seniors with dementia provides an opportunity to connect with others on a regular basis. No matter how fleeting, these connections can combat loneliness and isolation while improving emotional health.

Pain Relief

Aging has its perks, of course… but there are downsides, too. Chronic pain is one of them. We’re talking about achy joints and arthritis. Art therapy provides a nice distraction and can even improve blood flow to reduce inflammation.

One particular study found that participating in art therapy for an average of 50 minutes significantly lowered levels of pain and anxiety for patients receiving acute hospital treatment. 

Improved Memory

Art is all about observing the world through a different lens. It helps us see things in a new light and unlock other parts of our minds. When we engage those untouched areas of the brain, we start to create connections as they relate to our current perspective. Those connections then help us to create new memories or even recover memories we thought had been lost.

Art Therapy at The Moments

Art and dementia may seem like an odd pairing. But, the truth is that art therapy can do a lot to improve the lives of seniors. 

At The Moments, we see how powerful this can be, and we utilize all forms of sensory stimulation to:

  1. Promote positivity.
  2. Reduce anxiety. 
  3. Improve physical health.
  4. Encourage healthy expression.  

The benefits of arts and crafts for dementia patients are so abundantly clear, that we recommend all caretakers make art therapy a part of their loved one’s daily or weekly routine.

Want to learn more about other sensory activities that benefit those with dementia? 
Contact us, or schedule a visit today!

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