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The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s—And How Art Sessions Can Help With Both

Mary Beth Flynn | 16 March, 2022

            The  Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s—And How Art Sessions Can Help With Both

As we grow older, our short-term memory starts to fade. We may forget the names of acquaintances or regularly misplace our car keys. In many cases, it’s nothing to be worried about—it’s a side effect of aging, just like gray hair and wrinkles.

Dementia is different. While we associate it with memory loss, dementia includes various symptoms that affect one’s reasoning, behavior, and emotions. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a decline in a senior’s mental ability caused by the brain cells’ inability to communicate. Seniors living with dementia may experience agitation, difficulties speaking, confusion, and poor judgement. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for up to 80 percent of dementia cases.

To provide their residents with enriching activities and promote their cognitive stimulation, assisted living communities have integrated hands-on art sessions, like those offered by Artfully Aging, into their recreation programs. While putting paintbrush to paper is an enjoyable activity in itself, the therapeutic benefits to those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s are proven to help maintain their overall health and well-being:

  • Art is an opportunity to reminisce and reignite old memories.When art sessions involve conversation prompts and invite participants to share memories associated with the session’s theme, seniors feel their stories are valuable and worthy of sharing. Because residents with dementia often lose their short-term memory, but hold on to their long-term memory longer, art fosters dignity and helps them preserve their sense of self.
  • Painting provides a way to communicate. Seniors who participate in art often discover a way to express themselves artistically when they can’t verbally. Researchers discovered that through art, residents “are able to overcome inadequacies of self-expression due to impaired language ability and can vent negative emotions, thereby making significant achievements in improving attention and reducing behavioral and psychological symptoms.”
  • Residents feel a greater sense of pride when they create.When seniors can longer participate in their favorite hobbies, creating something with their own hands that results in something beautiful provides a feeling of accomplishment and happiness that extends into other areas of their lives. In one study, seniors who attended one-hour therapeutic art sessions for five weeks demonstrated improved self-esteem compared to a control group that discussed current events or partook in other activities.

To discover even more benefits of offering senior art programs to your residents living with dementia or Alzheimer’s, click here or call 314.968.9148 to launch an Artfully Aging program at your assisted living community.