A top down photo of an older woman sitting on a couch and painting a flowers

Communicating Through Creating Art: How People With Mid- to Late-Stage Dementia Find New Ways to Still Stay in Touch and Engaged

Dealing with the effects of dementia can be difficult for your loved one and your family. While dementia may slowly start to take away memories and, eventually, the ability to talk, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to communicate and connect with your loved one. In fact, studies have found that people with mid to late-stage dementia who experience language loss still have the ability to communicate in vibrant and visually creative ways through art therapy. 

Check out the benefits of art classes for dementia patients and see why you should look into memory care communities that offer these types of high-quality life enriching opportunities.

What is Art Therapy?

The role that art and visual creativity play in the dynamics of dementia is the subject of a growing number of research studies. While art therapy might look like an art class with brushes, paints, beads, fabric, ribbons, paper of various textures and scissors, you don’t have to be an artist or even have artistic skills to benefit from it. The therapeutic benefit actually comes from the art making itself and can help fight isolation by building relationships, fostering empathy, reducing anxiety, lessening mood swings and giving your loved one a sense of control over their environment.

Art Therapy as Part of Memory Care

When verbal communication becomes difficult, the artistic process allows people with dementia to express themselves through their art by helping them discover new ways to communicate. That’s because creating art can engage a different part of the brain than the part that we use for language. 

In fact, in those with language loss, the visual side of their brain is no longer inhibited by the verbal side. As an example, think of the times when you’ve been able to picture what you’re thinking of but it takes you a moment to find the word you want to use. Art therapy allows visual creativity to be released. Art therapy can also help access other parts of the brain that maybe they haven’t activated in a while, such as visual-spatial relationships and hand-eye coordination. 

Here are a few real life examples of the benefits of art therapy: 

  • Judy Allen was diagnosed with dementia. Her husband, Ben Allen, who’s involved with a nonprofit art program — Memories in the Making —  recognized she’s still the same person she’s always been. He believes sometimes art is just the artist saying, “I’m still here.”
  • American-born Canadian sculptor, Mary Hecht, suffered from vascular dementia later in life and was wheelchair-bound due to multiple strokes. While she couldn’t name certain animals or remember any words therapists asked her to recall, her artistic abilities remained. Mary could sketch portraits of people on the spot and draw figures from memory. She was later the subject of a paper discussing the possibility that art could be used to delay the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.


The Culpeper Offers Innovative Memory Care Programs

At The Culpeper, we feature The Cornerstone program. Our program is guided by seven principles designed to allow your loved one to experience a more vibrant life:

  • Purposeful living in a comfortable, safe environment
  • Compassionate, specially trained team members
  • Life Story: learning your loved one’s preferences, lifelong routines, wishes, history
  • Meaningful relationships and belonging
  • Resident and family engagement
  • Ability-focused care
  • Vibrancy, faith, wellness, community

We also feature a state-of-the-art program called It’s Never 2 Late® (iN2L) that brings innovation to residents and has much-proven success. iN2L virtual programs offer a wide variety of memory care activities to keep your loved one engaged and help support their overall wellness including trivia, painting, religious services, exercise, video calls with family, singalongs and much more.

This interactive system has a mobile station that can be brought to a resident’s room or other areas. Your loved one can be set up with their own personalized page to include their likes, such as favorite sports, songs and games. 

To learn more about our innovative Memory Care philosophy, contact us here.