The Benefits of Art and Creativity for Seniors with Dementia

Senior Painting

Considered one of the highest forms of human expression, art and creative interpretation are now being used to assist individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia to express themselves and reconnect with the world around them – while also providing them with valuable physical and emotional benefits.

The Healing Relationship Between Art and Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America and other dementia care authorities have addressed the beneficial relationship between art activities and the well-being of loved ones living with dementia. Whether it’s painting with a brush, finger painting or drawing, art can provide your loved one with a sense of pride and enjoyment while lifting their spirits and soothing their anxiety.

Sara Tucker, MA, an art therapist and early-stage dementia services manager for the Minnesota-North Dakota Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association®, explains that art stimulates the senses in several useful ways. “It has the ability to alter the mind, affect our behavior, emotions and our relationships with others. Art fosters health, communication and expression to promote the integration of physical, emotional, cognitive and social functioning. For people living with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia, this truly is important.”

Says Janet McNemar, NHA, MBA, Executive Director at Bryn Mawr Terrace, located in Bryn Mawr, PA, “The beneficial effects of art and related creative activities for loved ones living with dementia are supported by research and very clear. That’s why you’ll find cognitively stimulating  opportunities for art, creative expression and extensive life-enrichment activities here at Bryn Mawr Terrace as part of our Care Traditions Memory Care services.

“Within the secure and comforting surroundings of our Care Traditions neighborhood, therapeutic recreation specialists provide structured, meaningful activities that are best suited to the individual needs and desires of each of our residents living with dementia. Care Traditions takes a holistic approach to memory care, incorporating programming for the mind, body and spirit, as well as assisting those with dementia in having positive interactions with other residents, staff, volunteers, family and friends.”

Specific Benefits of Art Therapy and Creative Expression for Those with Dementia

Dementia care authorities and certified art therapists say that art and creativity can benefit individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in several key ways, including:

  • Improving mood and decreasing agitation and outbursts
  • Increasing the ability for self-expression and communication
  • Helping to reduce stress, fear and anxiety
  • Enabling social engagement and reducing isolation
  • Enhancing memory and the ability to reminisce over pleasant past experiences
  • Providing an important sense of accomplishment and purpose
  • Improving the ability to focus
  • Awakening a sense of interest and curiosity
  • Rekindling the ability to form relationships, particularly with the persons supporting the art activities


Dementia Caregiver Tips for Using Art Therapy with Your Loved One at Home

If you would like to try some art activities with your loved one with dementia at home, the Alzheimer’s Association® provides some very useful tips to help get you started. According to the article, Music, Art and Alzheimer's, art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose as well as an opportunity for self-expression for those with dementia. When planning an art activity for someone with middle- to late-stage dementia, it is recommended that at-home caregivers keep the following tips in mind:

Keep the project on an adult level. Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem childlike.

Build conversation into the project. Provide encouragement; discuss what the person is creating or reminiscence. 

Help the person begin the activity. If the person is painting, you may need to start the brush movement. Most other projects should only require basic instruction and assistance.

Use safe materials. Avoid toxic substances and sharp tools. 

Allow plenty of time, keeping in mind that the person doesn’t have to finish the project in one sitting.

Janet adds, “By using these dementia caregiver tips, you can provide your loved one at home with the enjoyment of artistic expression while also affording them a variety of physical, emotional and social benefits.”

For more helpful senior living and senior care information, we invite you to read our monthly articles and tips on a variety of important senior health topics. We also welcome you to stop in for a tour to see for yourself why we’ve been rated Best in Senior Care.


We’d Love to Hear Your Thoughts!

If you have comments or questions about our article, “The Benefits of Art and Creativity for Seniors with Dementia,” we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences with us in our comments section.

A Healthy Tradition of Care and Wellness

There are times when the challenges associated with advanced age, a prolonged illness or a chronic condition make 24-hour care and support a necessity. At Bryn Mawr Terrace, we’re always here for you and your family. Our compassionate, professional team treats our residents as family and respects each of them as the individuals they are, all with their own unique life story.

We understand that each one of our residents has unique needs and desires, so we deliver personalized care and services that are tailored to each individual. The amenities and activities offered within our community are designed to keep our residents happy, fulfilled and living well. From delicious dining to a variety of social programming, we offer a lifestyle that’s meant to be lived!

Located near Bryn Mawr Hospital, Bryn Mawr Terrace – part of Main Line Senior Care Alliance – has provided exceptional care and services to seniors and their families since 1966. It’s a tradition we’re proud to continue.

Today, Bryn Mawr Terrace serves as a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), offering a range of services – including Short-term Rehabilitation, Traditional Nursing Care, Independent Living, Personal Care, Memory Care, Restorative Care and Respite Care – all in a setting that is warm, welcoming and nurturing. 

For more information on Bryn Mawr Terrace and our variety of needs-based lifestyle services, please call us at 610.525.8300 or contact us online.


Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Bryn Mawr Terrace and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician. 

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