In William Finn’s musical A New Brain, a semi-autobiographical story about a composer dealing with an arteriovenous malformation, song lyrics drive home the importance of having “heart and music to survive.” For patients dealing with dementia conditions, art and music can play a significant role in improving quality of life. Although the arts are often thought of as mere footnotes, the truth is that art therapies are recommended even by the Alzheimer’s Association for their benefits. Although 71% of seniors said in a study that their most common activity was reading, there are some major reasons why dementia care plans should include involvement in visual art and/or music therapy. We’ll discuss some of these reasons below.
For patients with dementia diseases, an emphasis on stress relief in their memory care activities can make a huge difference. Listening to music or participating in an activity like painting or crafting can provide a sense of calm to residents in memory care centers. Music can instantly transport you or create a certain mood, which can be extremely helpful when dementia patients are in an agitated state. And countless studies have shown that viewing and creating art can reduce stress in healthcare facilities and work environments. It’s even been found to promote healing, in many cases. While participating in memory care activities related to music and art won’t stop dementia, it can alleviate anxiety and frustration while providing a positive distraction for patients.
Connection To Others
Visual art and music are incredibly powerful, allowing us to forge connections with others around us. Music and art therapy can allow someone with dementia to reconnect with their family or with their peers. It can even help them communicate in ways they may not have been able to otherwise access. There have been many instances where non-verbal dementia patients have been subsequently able to sing or talk to others after listening to well-known pieces of music.
In addition to the outside connections art and music activities can provide, partaking in these offerings can strengthen a patient’s connections to their own past. Many personal memories may be lost, but you’d be surprised to know how many residents are able to recall song lyrics from their childhood or a familiar melody they haven’t heard in years. According to many studies, music can connect the brain’s auditory center and the emotional processing center, which can help trigger memories, improve speech, and impact movement abilities. Patients who participate in art therapy may find that they can access memories and improve cognitive and physical functions, as well.
When those with dementia are unable to express themselves verbally, they may feel increasingly frustrated and confused by their situation. Memory care activities centered around art and music therapy can allow them to regain their voice in new and creative ways. Art and music can provide an outlet for their feelings and can give them increased self-confidence through their accomplishments. A sense of purpose can be extremely important for residents with dementia diseases, and getting the chance to create a piece of art or listen to beloved music can provide that for many people.
These days, numerous memory care facilities have recognized the importance of including opportunities for artistic expression and arts therapy programs in their offerings for residents. If someone you love is dealing with dementia, be sure to ask your facility of choice about the kinds of activities they provide for residents and how your loved one can benefit from participating in the arts.