March 13, 2023

Art Therapy for Seniors with Dementia – Ideas for Caregivers

Looking after a loved one with dementia can be challenging. Finding the right form of care management often feels like a daunting task due to the amount of physical and emotional support your senior relative may need. Luckily, there are many options for families and their loved ones. Finding care that’s exactly the right fit for your circumstances is feasible with a little research.

A dementia diagnosis presents numerous unknowns and a lot of questions for the family of the patient. Proper elder care management will be tailored to their specific needs, and creativity within their care management plan has proven to be extremely beneficial—especially art therapy.

What Is Art Therapy?
 Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy that uses art as a medium or tool for self-expression. It is used to aid in the emotional welfare of people of all ages with a wide variety of psychological backgrounds. Backgrounds may include mental, emotional, or behavioral problems, as well as disabilities and other medical conditions. Art therapy programs are run by licensed therapists.

Benefits of Art Therapy with Dementia
Art therapy is a wonderful tool to implement in the care management of seniors with dementia. Recent and past studies show it can stimulate the brain, trigger lost memories, and help aid in ongoing verbal or nonverbal communication.

It has provided seniors with noticeable breakthroughs. One senior regained some of the personality traits she lost due to her dementia, like her sense of humor, and her art served as a tangible memory for her family.

Another senior began slowly remembering how to use different painting styles he used to, in his pre-dementia life, and regained some independent motor function by holding the brushes by himself. Art therapy can enhance the lives of seniors with dementia.

Connect as a Caregiver
Art therapy can help strengthen the bond between you as a caregiver and the seniors with dementia with whose care you are trusted. It’s important you stay involved and open to whatever memories and feelings art therapy may rekindle in them. It is providing them with purpose and brings back some of the independence that is lost with a dementia diagnosis. The creativity and freedom art therapy brings with your support will help them reconnect with the happiness and hope that existed pre-diagnosis.

Explore Mediums
There are many different forms of art that can aid in expression. Each senior is drawn to specific mediums they feel a connection to. Watercolor painting, adult coloring books, and hands-on projects that don’t require much physical movement appeal to many. Collaging, putting a scrapbook or journal together, sculpting with clay: The unique creative forms of art therapy are limitless.

Seniors should be stimulated to plan, create, and apply motor skills through their art therapy. It’s important to keep in mind the limitations of the specific senior and work around it. The activities should challenge, not frustrate the participant.

Art Goes Beyond Painting
It’s important to keep in mind that art itself is completely subjective. Art includes anything that is expressed, and it covers a wide variety of things. Performance art like dance/movement and acting, visual art, singing, and written art are part of a long list of things you can try, in caring for a senior with dementia. Any program can be beneficial, and using a variety of fine arts can provide further therapeutic enrichment. You never know with what a senior you are caring for may connect.

Connect with the Community
Many communities across the nation recognize the important role art therapy has in dementia care and are making an effort to help. Museums organize special days out for seniors and their caregivers to have exclusive access to art in a safe, monitored environment.

Teleconference courses are available for homebound seniors. A weekly classic jazz listening and movement program through a community organization helped one senior recall her younger days and allow her to live in the present, recognizing the present versus the past for longer periods of time.

Connecting with the community is a great way to help combat the loneliness and isolation a senior can feel. Communal art therapy provides a comfortable, positive space for socialization and building bonds.

Keep It Special
Although art therapy may be implemented in a senior’s daily or weekly care management routine, it’s important to keep it exciting every time. No matter how often the sessions occur, each one should feel special. By using a variety of mediums, projects, and creative tools, you’ll bring about new challenges. Positivity is infectious, and your senior will feed off the energy you bring to art therapy. Don’t limit the possibilities.

Reach Out to Others
As a caregiver, you are not alone. There’s a whole community of resources for you made up of experts and professionals who specialize in art therapy. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Explore new things to incorporate into art therapy and connect with other caregivers who are in similar a position.

Living with dementia means finding a purpose and celebrating the little moments in daily life. Art therapy brings small victories and achievements that will brighten any senior’s life.