From the enjoyment that comes from looking at a sculpture to creating your own work of art, creative expression has a variety of mental health benefits – especially for those living with dementia. Research shows that art therapy can improve the lives of adults with dementia by helping to slow cognitive deterioration and improving social engagement through non-verbal expression.
Art therapy stimulates the brain in many ways that may enhance communication, brain function, and social interaction in people with age-related neurocognitive changes. Some common benefits of art therapy that caregivers commonly report include:
Improved mood: Art projects give people with dementia something tangible to do that keeps them engaged. By keeping them focused on a task within their capabilities, they often experience a reduction in anxiety and agitation.
Sense of accomplishment: Dementia can make staying on task and completing activities more challenging. Art projects can be empowering because the creation process (as opposed to the end result) provides a sense of accomplishment.
Self-expression: Dementia can reduce a person’s verbal communication skills. However, the creative arts are a form of non-verbal expression. A person with a form of dementia affecting their speech can benefit from having a creative outlet as a means for self-expression.
The type of art doesn’t matter – painting, drawing, working with clay, and even adult coloring books are great ways to engage your loved one’s sense of creativity. For an easy project you can try at home, follow the infographic below to learn how to make paper flowers.