ASK ANNA #9: Alzheimer's and Art Therapy

April 08, 2018

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Recently, I have been given the chance to explore the relationship of Alzheimer’s Disease and Art Therapy. Here are just some of the interview questions that I answered. These information may come in handy in the future!

What are the mental capabilities of people with Alzheimer's?

The mental capabilities of people with this condition are limited. At first, they may notice mild confusion and difficulty in remembering trivial things (e.g., the location of one’s keys). Multitasking is challenging for them too!

Eventually, they may forget the names of important people in their lives. Further progression of the disorder may lead to the inability to recognize numbers and the inability to converse coherently.

What are the age-related risk factors of Alzheimer’s?

Without a doubt, “increasing age is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer's”. One’s risk of developing it greatly increases as you reach the age of 65. Rarely do people experience early-onset of symptoms as early as aged 30. 

How can Filipino families support brain activities that are beneficial for people with Alzheimer’s?

Families can help their beloved relative/s by providing resources that trigger the "mental muscles" (e.g., crossword puzzles and adult coloring books). Instead of relying solely on medications, they may explore alternative options such as playing music. It has been shown that “musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer's disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease.”

Try filling the room with relaxing music that will remind them of the happier times. 

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How can an Alzheimer patient be engaged in art activities?

Words can fail us sometimes! Thankfully, there are other ways to express oneself including creative arts.

According to American Art Therapy Association (2014): "Art therapy is a mental health profession that uses the creative process of art making to improve and enhance the physical, mental and emotional well-being of individuals of all ages." Art therapy has been proven to improve the well being of individuals by using various mediums such as painting, sculpting, singing, and drawing.

When it comes to people with Alzheimer’s, creation of art is more than just a recreational pastime. It allows patients to express themselves and their worth. They may use this broad medium to express their thoughts and feelings. 

I suggest giving activities that stimulate FREEDOM. For instance, it is better to provide a range of crayons and paint colors than by limiting them with a few pieces. Adult coloring books is a good place to start. You may also encourage them to freely illustrate their current emotions. Simply instruct to draw anything he or she wants!

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