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The Healing Effects of Music and Art Therapy in Memory Care

We think of alternative therapy for brain diseases, as any treatment that does not involve medication, surgery or other medical procedure. These unconventional types of music and art therapy can work better than the prescribed medications, and without the side effects! Doctors have discovered that Alzheimer’s disease normally does not affect the parts of the brain related to emotions, creativity and creative expression. Stimulate these areas and allow the individual  to communicate using the emotional and creative centers of the brain.  Doing this, we can make connections in a way that we may have thought were lost forever. The use of music and art therapy is a fast-growing trend.  It releases the creative processes in the elderly and is therapeutic for the person with dementia.

MUSIC THERAPY

music-therapyOne of the most effective alternative treatments offered today in memory care is music therapy. Music can aid in memory retrieval, as a result of the connection between the auditory cortex of the brain and the limbic system, where emotions are processed, and helps to trigger long-term memories. Even in the late stages of the disease, parts of the brain like the hippocampus and limbic systems are still intact. Clinical studies show that people with Dementia or Alzheimer’s have improved speech, memory, and movement after repeatedly playing and listening to music.

Music therapy can allow patients and their families to reconnect again in some very remarkable ways. Music evokes emotions that bring memories. Musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in dementia patients. When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress, stimulate positive interactions, and facilitate cognitive function.

Songs from the person’s youth often engage the most memories. In the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, you may have to go back to songs learned in childhood. Music provides a way to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult, and is used as a sensory stimulation that can help maintain or improve a person’s quality of life. In addition, music therapy improves the overall physical and mental wellbeing of those with dementia, including memory recall, positive changes in moods, non-medicinal management of pain/discomfort, and opportunities to interact socially with others.

ART THERAPY

Art therapy provides an enriched environment that can stimulate the imagination of individuals with dementia. Painting, drawing, and other forms of art therapy can help people with Alzheimer’s disease art-therapyexpress themselves through color, lines, and images. Expression through art is especially important as a person’s ability to communicate through words deteriorates. This recreational activity provides an alternative means by which they can express themselves.  It can help them recover the use of motor skills in the same manner as physical rehabilitation.

 

Art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose by providing the person with dementia an opportunity for self-expression, and as a creative outlet to express their ideas and emotions in a safe, structured environment. Art therapy also allows clients to socialize and enhance their quality of life by connecting with others.

There are many benefits to art therapy.  They include facilitating creative and tactile stimulation, increasing social interactions, and promoting individual expressions of emotion.  Additionally, enhancing memory recall, improving concentration, and increasing cognitive connections through imagery.

CONCLUSION

Music and art therapy are very powerful ways of connecting with people with dementia.  This generally leads to happier and more engaged persons. Many senior living communities utilize both forms of therapy to help diffuse anxiety and offer redirection, as needed. These forms of therapy can offer substantial rewards that a person may not otherwise receive. Create art and reflect on the art products and processes.  Through this, people can increase awareness of self and cope with stress.   They will also enhance cognitive abilities and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.

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