Art Therapy for Dementia
Art therapy is a creative activity designed to develop cognitive, motor, emotional and interpersonal skills. It also serves as a non-verbal expressive medium which may provide patients with insights into their ‘inner world’ (BAAT 2013).
Art is an incredibly effective means for the expression of feelings and emotions, particularly in dementia. It provides a form of communication which may be difficult for many seniors to express verbally, leading to feelings of loneliness or isolation.
Art therapy has the potential to help patients cope with their condition and its consequences, as well as improve their mental health. Studies have demonstrated that art can enhance quality of life for people living with dementia by decreasing agitated behavior and promoting better sleep patterns.
Artistic techniques can be employed to facilitate communication between a patient with dementia and an art therapist, potentially having therapeutic effects on symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, fatigue and depression.
Painting and drawing are popular activities in art therapy sessions, but other types of art-making can also be included. These include sculpture, ceramics and claywork, jewellery design and photography.
They provide an outlet for those living with dementia, as they involve group participation and can promote communication between patients, their caretakers or relatives. Art-making also has the potential to reduce loneliness and isolation among elderly individuals by giving them the chance to express emotions more creatively than verbally communicating can do.
Seniors who have lost their language abilities may become emotionally distraught. Negative emotions like anger, sadness and extreme joy can become overwhelming for caregivers and exacerbate symptoms associated with dementia such as agitation or sleeplessness.
Negative emotions often reside deep within the brain, but when seniors with dementia create art, the act of expressing those feelings can bring them joy and make them feel happier. Additionally, making art gives seniors with dementia a sense of control over their emotions, keeps them more involved in daily life activities, and ultimately enhances quality of life.
A study looking into the effects of art therapy on agitated behaviors among older adults with dementia discovered that those who participated in a 12-week art coloring intervention experienced lower scores for wandering, excretion and calling without reason. Furthermore, participants reported an increase in their daily average sleep time compared to those without such activities.
Agitated behaviors are common among patients with dementia and can cause great frustration and stress for them, their family members, and caregivers. Not only does this decrease quality of life for those affected, but it also raises medical treatment costs.
This study sought to investigate the effect of art therapy and reminiscence therapy on alleviating agitated behaviors among those with dementia. A randomised controlled trial was conducted with 54 patients from two care centers in Taiwan.