“Art offers [patients with dementia] a way of communication that doesn’t rely on their verbal skills and allows them to contribute in a way that they don’t often get to do,” said Nancy Lee Hendley, dementia care trainer for the New York City chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Caring for an elderly loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s is a difficult thing, often both for the caregiver and the patient. This is especially true when it comes to effective communication. Enter “art therapy.”
According to a recent article in The New York Times (The New Old Age Blog) titled Art Therapy For Alzheimer's Patients, art helps to comfort and often even invigorate a patient by giving them “something” with which to associate that does not require verbal interaction. As a result, various museums have begun programs with care professionals to provide guided tours for patients. These tours through exhibits offer patients the opportunity to associate with and discuss the art on display. In Williamsburg, Virginia Alzheimer’s patients are offered an art therapy program at various locations. The ‘therapist’ is the daughter of an Alzheimer’s sufferer who was astonished by the beautiful artwork her father was able to create even as he found himself otherwise unable to communicate with his loved ones.
According to the article, the experience also has proven to be a pleasurable activity for the caregivers, even if neither the caregiver nor the patient was an art-buff beforehand.
So, if you have a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, then you might check with your local art museum and inquire about an art therapy program. Who knows, perhaps your suggestion just might initiate a similar program in your hometown.
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Reference: The New York Times – The New Old Age Blog (April 13, 2012) “Reconnecting Through Art”