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Art and Dementia

Art therapy has a long history and an important role in the Center. The act of creating art promotes independence, enriches life, and provides a pleasurable experience and outlet for communication. It not only enhances cognitive abilities, but also gives a “voice” to individuals who have stopped communicating with the outside world. “Our patients have a sense of accomplishment when they paint, and art group provides important social stimulation when they share their work with others,” says Patrick Wallis, our Manager of Activities.

The research tells us that watercolor painting has been shown to have a powerful impact, and it is related to opportunities to be creative! Creativity profoundly effects mood, and provides opportunities for storytelling. The creative process stems from multiple brain regions, contrary to popular belief that the right brain alone is responsible for creativity. We stimulate and engage neural pathways throughout the brain in the process of planning, creating, and executing. This process is part of what makes art so valuable- it energizes many parts of the brain!

For patients with dementia, more recent memories and information may be lost, however, older memories from childhood and earlier in the life tend to stay longer. Since we tend to express memories verbally, art provides patients a way to communicate old and new memories without words. Many patients can participate in and enjoy art, even when other skills have been lost.

Other benefits of engaging in art and creativity include the ability to improve or restore a person’s motor-skills, improve his or her sense of personal well-being, and provide a relaxing and pleasurable experience. Next time you visit the center, come in and take a peek at our Art Wall. This is a special place where our patients can proudly display their work; still-lifes, memories, emotions and color, and family portraits. Pictures that tell the story of their lives -cabins at the lake, old friends, a family pet, and destinations once traveled. Memories old and new, forgotten and remembered again.

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