Professionals are discovering what we here at the Aspen Senior Center already know – art therapy helps seniors with memory loss maintain their cognitive abilities longer and improve their quality of life.
The Boston Globe recently had an article on how Art Therapy has become the “cutting edge” in Alzheimer’s treatment because it reaches people on a personal level – something that drug treatment for memory impairment doesn’t seem to do.
We have seen that music has the ability to transcend time. Even individuals who seem to have lost the ability to speak will open their eyes and hum or sing the words that go with the songs of their youth.
John Zeisel , president and co-founder of Hearthstone Alzheimer Care Centers in Massachusetts and New York, uses art to engage and connect with people with dementia. He states:
“When you are cared for, you lose your sense of who you are. Everybody with dementia has a lot going for them. They can experience, they can be present, and they can develop.”
We want to focus on what individuals with memory loss can do. Providing an opportunity to experience the arts does more than just give these people a nice way to spend an afternoon. It improves many of the symptoms of memory loss and helps them connect with others and their surroundings in a personal way.
Robert Stern, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University, said a growing body research suggests music can boost recall of personal memories. He states:
“Whether it be fine arts, music, listening to music, going to museums…[these activities] get through to the person with Alzheimer’s by exploiting the areas of the brain which are least impaired. Anything that can touch the patient through that network of brain [areas] can have a profound impact.”
Rather than wait for new drugs to be developed, John Zeisel said, “Our present challenge is to provide people with a life worth living while they’re alive.”
This is why we are always trying to increase our knowledge and improve our skills in working with our clients with memory impairment. Our goal is to help our clients feel successful and worthwhile while struggling with this illness and provide support for their families.