Art therapy activities that are created to enhance the quality of life in dementia patients, nurture dignity and validate them in their current state. Through artistic and creative activities, we can help them honor their unique life stories, as well as to restore and preserve their sense of self. Studies show that when done in combination with reminiscence activities, art therapy shows dementia patients that their story is of value and interest to others. Most importantly, it also demonstrates to them that they are capable of adding beauty to the world for others to enjoy. In this article, we will cover the benefits of art therapy for dementia patients and mention some artistic activities anyone can try at home with their older adult that has dementia or similar cognitive issues.
Benefits of Art Therapy for Dementia
Creative activities can help reduce agitation and boost the mood of dementia patients. Simple art projects not only provide them a way to express their feelings and emotions without words but also give them a sense of accomplishment and purpose.
A specialized type of art therapy for dementia is called is also known as Mneme therapy. Mneme therapy aims to help older adults with dementia, Alzheimer’s, MS, and other cognitive challenges stimulate their brain and rebuilding some of its lost functions. Art therapy for dementia typically combines art, song, and movement.
By using a combination of specific activities, the brain is stimulated. Brain stimulation helps rebuild lost function by reorienting and remapping it. Studies show that seniors who have done art therapy have improved their verbal skills and mobility. This form of treatment can also help reduce combativeness.
How to Get Started with Art Activities for Dementia?
Art therapy can help your affected loved one to live a meaningful life, and to stay happy and engaged despite their condition. In order to try art therapy, it is best to hire a professional because they know how to tailor each activity according to the patient’s specific needs. In the following example, we will see how one session looks like. You can try some of these simple activities at home with your loved one who has dementia.
You should always warm up the patient before art therapy. Start by sitting face to face, take the hands of the patient and swing them left to right as you lead them into a song. Sing a song that is well familiar to them because this activity should stimulate word memory.
To stimulate the brain even further, give high five to your patient with one hand and then with the other. You could also play a game of patty cake to increase mobility. Next, you should hold up two or three fingers and move them from left to right asking how many fingers you are holding. Flutter your fingers like a butterfly and ask the patient to capture it.
Paper Flower Making
Provide a template for petals and leaves and leave the patient to cut out the pretty colored crepe paper shapes. Put the stamens and the petals together with glue, and that’s it. Beautiful crepe paper flowers will bring joy to the patient and a sense of accomplishment. Crepe flowers also make an excellent gift for anyone who visits.
It may be difficult for people with dementia to draw a picture on their own, so it may be better to provide them pencil crayons to color. The patients’ creations can then be used to make a beautiful card. Of course, the best colorings should be displayed on the wall to always remind them of their accomplishment and effort.
If the patients cannot design the card on their own, give them a template for decorations. They can cut it out, and combine the pieces into something beautiful. By encouraging the patients’ self-expression and creativity, you will reduce their anxiety and fidgeting. Cutting out shapes also improves hand-eye coordination and combining and sticking down shapes aids focus and concentration.
Puzzles are a great way to stimulate the brain. Just make sure you don’t give the patient something that is too difficult because it may discourage them.
Shell and Stone Craft
Simple crafts such as this one can give your loved one a wonderful feeling of purpose and achievement. You can make something with shells (such as unique wind chimes) or paint stones to create unique paperweights. Draw outlines on rocks and let the patient color them with markers. The color can easily be sealed with a quick spray of lacquer.
All the mentioned activities are very simple, yet they are an enjoying activity that helps dementia patients feel happy and confident. At the same time, different muscles and mental connections are stimulated which will improve their cognitive abilities, as well as their overall physical and mental wellbeing.
About the author:
Tamara is an art historian and a writer who loves spending her free time reading, watching Netflix, or playing video games.