Living with Alzheimer”™s is like being diagnosed with a progressive disease that affects the brain in a foreseeable manner. Your brain so small yet so complicated is responsible for making you feel and see the world in a meaningful manner. With the inevitable impairments in cognition and memory, caregivers through the expressive arts and storytelling can make this journey more bearable. The power of art therapies have been found to be so effective that The Society for the Arts in Dementia Care was set up to create an effective network of organizations that provide dementia care.
Art therapies that symbolize creativity such as drama, music or art including yoga, meditation, visualization and Reiki/massage can improve the Alzheimer”™s patient”™s quality of life.
How on earth do art therapies help?
Research has established a strong link between creativity and dementia. Backed by scientific knowledge and logical explanations we can explain how creativity can do wonders to an Alzheimer patient.
Alzheimer”™s initiates from the hippocampus (part of the brain), that effortlessly registers experiences to form memories, moving on to the area responsible for language processing and the decision making abilities. The next target is the logic center that handles problem solving and planning. One area that remains viable for quite a long span of time is linked with emotions and creativity.
By effectively stimulating activity in these areas we can hope for a miracle that can create connections that were seemed to be lost for life. Thought provoking activities will allow the Alzheimer diagnosed individual to communicate on another level using their emotional and creative centers of the brain, rather than putting undue stress on those parts of the brain that are linked to memory and logic. As the power of active participation in creative activities will bear fruit it will inevitably become less obvious that the individual is a dementia patient.
In reality, senior care services which employ art therapies to treat their patients intend to promote physical and emotional well-being by raising feelings of curiosity and self-evaluation, by giving individuals a platform to express themselves in a meaningful manner, upholding their self-worth and dignity in the process. They also prove effective in de-stressing in the long run.
Choosing the right therapeutic activity for the patient
Taming the more disturbing and agonizing behavioral symptoms of AD such as resentment, fury, unnecessary agitation, gloominess, loitering restlessly and rummaging into things for no rhyme or reasons entails planning structured and customized activities for individuals with different interests. When displaying these symptoms the patient”™s mind needs to be diverted and involved in something more productive. Health professionals”™ advice that these activities should revolve around:
- Person”™s past interests
- Cue the person to old and recent memories
- Retain what is left of his memory and cognitive skills
You are your support system. As long as your sense of self is constantly fed and your will power boosted-nothing can let you down. Successful activities do so exactly by bringing out their skills, habits and memories and establishing a sense of identity. This psychological well-being is of utmost importance on the path to recovery.
Bear in mind that each person is different and may be affected by different factors. Hence it is vital to decide what will suit whom. Capitalizing on the former hobbies or interest of the person will set the ball rolling. These may include:
- Painting and drawing
- Singing and playing musical instruments
All these activities are an attempt towards facilitating people with Alzheimer”™s and inculcating spiritual connectedness and stability in their life. Similar attempts include the “Walk to End Alzheimer”™s“™ that observes November as Alzheimer”™s disease awareness month.
Creating Art as a therapy for Alzheimer”™s
Language problems are fairly common in an individual with Alzheimer”™s and may be observed in the early stages of this disease. Caregiving for such a person may have made you realize the struggles the person goes through in expressing themselves. Imagine, normal people like us falling short of words. The idea is there but your words just won”™t do justice to it. This can be highly frustrating and nerve-wracking for a mental patient as he makes his way through the emotional turmoil and tries indefinitely to be able to communicate effectively.
This is when they discover art as a blessing in disguise. Art-a medium through which they can relax their nerves and re-produce their inner feelings on a blank canvas, comprehensively representing their thoughts and feelings.
Art is not just about drawing, paintings and colors, other therapeutic activities also come under this umbrella as music and other visual therapy is also a form of art. Research studies that have shown to reduce the stress symptoms of Alzheimer”™s include:
- Re-living precious family moments by playing video-tapes
- Personal interaction preferably face to face
- Treating the patient with the music of their choice
- Yoga poses are also a form of art as they help you connect to your inner self
- Pet therapy
A multi-faceted program involving music, arts and crafts, spiritual relaxation and specifically designed sessions incorporating blissful and calming activities like sensory awareness, guided imagery and the so-called mind-over-body techniques designed to calm your soul coupled with creativity is sure to increase the quality of life of an Alzheimer patient.