Senior woman painting with instructors help in art therapy class

How Art Therapy Helps Seniors in Memory Care

Art has been widely used to deal with stress, express emotions, and find meaning in life. Many people have made it become a coping mechanism to escape the world’s woes and experience a moment of pure bliss. Even Picasso, the famous painter, said that art washes the soul and cleans away the dust of everyday life.

So, it does not come as a surprise that art has now been promoted as a form of therapy for seniors with dementia in memory care assisted living. 

Further, studies proved that it also has numerous benefits to the overall well-being of older adults with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other types of dementia diseases.

If this is your first time hearing about art therapy, you are in the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about art therapy–what it is, how it helps seniors, and how memory care facilities use it.

 

What Is Art Therapy for Seniors?

Art therapy refers to the use of creative methods to promote psychological and physiological healing. Neuropsychiatrists and caregivers usually use it to treat brain and mental disorders, such as dementia and other forms. 

Art therapy believes that creative expression can facilitate healing and enhance physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Moreover, studies proved that seniors who participate in art therapy have better physical health, fewer doctor’s visits, and improved social interactions.

Memory care assisted living facilities do art therapy in various ways.  They have plenty of art therapy activities, techniques, and subjects for seniors living with dementia. This includes:

  • Drawing and painting (e.g., painting to music, painting your emotions, or scribble drawing)
  • Making a journal or writing poetry.
  • Creating a sculpture.
  • Making crafts like sock puppets, a mandala, or a collage of photos.
  • Taking photographs and documenting specific experiences.
  • Creating a visual autobiography.
  • Painting on different surfaces like rocks, glass, or canvas.

 

How Can Art Therapy Benefit Seniors in Memory Care Assisted Living?

Art therapy is open to people from all age brackets, including older adults with dementia. Your loved one does not have to be an artist or possess artistic abilities to thrive in art therapy. Every senior can do it and reap its wide array of benefits in the long-run. Some of its positive advantages are as follows.

 

 1. Promotes Self-Expression and Creativity

The ultimate goal of art therapy is to allow seniors to explore and express themselves through different art techniques. Whether it’s drawing or sculpting, art ultimately opens up the mind and heart for self-expression. 

Even without realizing it, seniors sometimes communicate and express their feelings through art. For instance, most older adults paint their favorite things during freestyle painting. Others make their husband, grandkids, or pet the subject of their art because those are their most treasured gifts in life.

Further, art therapy unleashes a senior’s creativity by tapping into their emotions, feelings, and imaginations. If you want to widen your loved one’s horizons, then consider introducing art therapy to them.

 

 2. Stimulates the Brain

Elderlies living with dementia need to occupy themselves with mind-stimulating and memory-enhancing activities. This will help slow the progression of the disease and prevent the brain’s progressive decline. 

Fortunately, one of the best activities that can stimulate the mind and enhance memory is art. Anything that engages the mind and keeps it active, such as knitting and painting, helps improve one’s overall cognitive function. Research has proved its numerous benefits to the brain, including:

  • Memory improvement because art prompts a senior to recall specific memories that bring out a positive emotion.
  • Improved thinking and learning skills when a senior thinks about ways to connect unrelated things.
  • Improved motor skills by using different brush strokes, holding art materials, or shaping a lump of clay.
  • Enhances the creative part of the brain when the elderly stretch their imagination.
  • Development of new brain cells due to constant stimulation.

 

Senior man in art class making clay pot with instructors help

 

 3. Improves Physical Well-Being

Decorating a scrapbook, writing a journal, or drawing the sunset might not be as physical as other activities. However, these activities also contribute to the improvement of the physical body, its stature, and physique.

Seniors in memory care assisted living are not fond of mild to moderate exercises. However, they will enjoy a workout if it comes with an activity they enjoy, such as art. 

The small yet purposeful movements involved in art therapy help relieve the muscles’ stiffness and stretch out the upper extremities. Also, it enhances coordination, agility and improves blood flow.

 

 4. Manages Stress

Chronic stress plays a significant role in the progression of dementia and its other forms. It is also a primary trigger of several behavioral symptoms of the disease like aggression, agitation, and anxiousness.

So as a caregiver, managing the stress of your loved one should be your top priority. One way to do that is through art therapy.

Besides allowing self-expression, arts also serve as a form of self-care. It is a quiet activity that helps the mind to relax and be active at the same time. Creating art allows seniors to take their minds off things that stress them. It diverts their attention, letting them focus on the calming strokes of their brush. 

 

 5. Enhances Mental Well-Being

Living with a debilitating illness like dementia can take a toll on a senior’s mental health. Not being able to understand what’s happening to your mind can be frustrating and lonely. This is why many seniors with dementia fall prey to the dark hands of depression and social isolation.

If your loved one experiences this, you can try to coax them out and battle the depression through art therapy. Here’s how art can help them get through these mental troubles:

  • Through art, seniors can express themselves and their feelings without the need to verbalize them.
  • Art stimulates the mind, which in turn, lifts the mood.
  • It allows them to focus on a positive activity instead of the depressing thoughts in their head. 
  • It allows seniors to interact with other people.
  • Over time, art’s engaging nature can renew your loved one’s purpose and give new meaning to their lives.