Managing Dementia With Art Therapy


What is Dementia?

Dementia takes away behavioral abilities and cognitive functioning and to the point where it hinders a person’s activities and daily life.

The functions that are typically affected include:

  • Language skills;
  • Memory;
  • Problem-solving;
  • Visual perception;
  • Self-management;
  • Ability to pay attention and focus.

Some people who suffer from dementia cannot regulate their emotions, and therefore, their personalities may begin to change. This disease varies in severity from the initial stage, when it starts to affect how a person functions, up to the most advanced stage, when the individual must completely depend on other people for basic care.

Symptoms and signs of dementia appear when once-healthy nerve cells in the brain cease working, then lose connections with other brain cells, and die. Although everyone loses some nerve cells as they age, people who suffer from dementia typically experience far greater loss.

Challenges of Dementia

Dementia involves many challenges, some of which are fairly straightforward to manage, while others can seem insurmountable. While every person’s experience is unique, many people do face similar hurdles along the journey.

Is your home safe and dementia-friendly?

Examine the rooms of your house and try to make them as safe as possible. Is the house set up to keep someone safe without limiting their freedom too much? If the patient is prone to wandering about, you may want to look into ways you can keep track of them.

Dealing with legal issues and finances.

These challenges can include:

  • Determining which benefits you may or may not be entitled to;
  • Locating any tax reductions or grants that are available;
  • Learning about free equipment you may be able to access;
  • Plan how to pay care nursing or home fees;
  • Stay on top of bills and changing budgets;
  • Setting up a lasting power of attorney and preparing a will.

Keeping life interesting.

It’s easy for someone with dementia to feel lonely and bored, which is why interests and hobbies can be so important. Finding ways to stay sociable is important.

Physical challenges.

Some of these challenges include:

  • Dealing with incontinence;
  • Managing dressing and bathing;
  • Eating well;
  • Remaining mobile;
  • Getting enough sleep and rest

Emotional challenges.

These challenges often include:

  • Aggression as a result of frustration;
  • Paranoia, hallucinations and suspicion;
  • Boredom;
  • Loneliness.

Art Therapy for Managing Dementia

Art therapy has been shown to be a powerful tool for treating dementia. In addition to giving patients something nice to look at or something meant to keep them busy, it also stimulates the brain. It rouses memories and can return the ability to speak back into the life of someone who struggles to communicate.  

Studies show that art therapy gives back to dementia patients some of what the disease has taken away. It can trigger dormant memories, encourage conversation, and stimulate the senses. Dementia patients can use it as a way to express themselves, especially people who can’t communicate verbally.

Benefits of Art Therapy for Dementia

One of the most common effects of dementia is the loss of the ability to communicate properly. But communicating through artistic expression can help evoke effective communication with friends, family, and caregivers. Using drawing or painting sidesteps language and allows a person to communicate in a different manner.

Taking part in art therapy can also be very soothing, by calming the anxieties and even fears that sometimes come along with dementia. In addition, crafting a piece of art can create a renewed life purpose and a sense of personal accomplishment

Benefits for people with dementia include:

  • Encourages validation, a sense of wholeness, and dignity;
  • Improves empathy and relationships;
  • Decreases feelings of isolation and anxiety;
  • Increases a feeling of control;
  • Encourages social connections.