The experience of Alzheimer’s disease can increase the feeling of isolation for both the people with dementia and their family members. Studies have found that the use of creative therapy is beneficial for individuals who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Using creative arts such as drama, dance, music, art, and/or pet therapy can often assist in creating community and allowing people to express themselves in different and deeper ways.
Where words leave off, music begins.
Heinrich Heine, German Poet
For most areas within creative arts, there is a certified or licensed therapist. Depending on your budget, it might be beneficial to have a therapist work with your participants at least occasionally or more often when possible.
If you have the resources to include creative arts and/or pet therapy in your group, this is an excellent way to reach those individuals who struggle with their speech and other typical forms of nonverbal expression. Creative arts also works well with caregivers as a different way to encourage conversations and insights.
If through your support group you do not have funds available, try bringing elements of creative arts to your group. You will need to be comfortable with what you are trying, so you might want to study and practice ahead of time. This could involved practice, online searches, attending workshops, and/or reading material. In order to make the use of a creative element beneficial for your members, you need to have confidence in what you are bringing to the group.
Any or all of the following would be excellent additions to a dementia support group setting. As with any group, understanding your members and what might be appealing or beneficial will depend on your individual members and their capabilities.
I love music, so when she starts playing the guitar, I don’t even think about Alzheimer’s… you are just happy
Person with dementia
Many different forms of music may awaken memories and help and individual reminisce and engage. The use of music also works well with caregivers. Analysis of song lyrics and creating music together can increase conversation and have benefit to mood.
At Without Warning, we offer a stand-alone music group, at every monthly meeting, and that has become a cherished part of our program. We have a music therapist on staff who plays the guitar and leads the group in songs, from rock classics of the 60's and 70's to other pop favorites. Between songs, members will often bring up cherished memories of attending concerts or their favorite band. They will also discuss life with dementia.
One of our members consistently reminds us that Bob Dyan is her favorite artist. Many of our members agree. The positive impact of this musical experience is clearly and consistently demonstrated.
With our young children's group we had them create an album cover and playlist to represent their life. Their choice of songs and artwork on the cover allowed for a creative way to express emotions and experiences.
Dance and simple movements can also be very stimulating and provide a sense of joy and freedom.
Art and creative projects such as painting, drawing, journaling can trigger an emotional release and provide opportunity for communication, via creative expression.
Trained therapy pets can be extremely effective in providing a sense of calmness and serenity. You might find a local pet therapy organization in your community that can provide a volunteer for your group, occasionally or on a regular basis.
At Without Warning we had a yoga instructor work with family members to show different ways to reduce stress. The instructor also worked with each person to talk about where they held stress in their body. This creative session allowed for a new and different way to talk about stress and its impact on their body.
At Without Warning, we offered a two session workshop for caregiver with a Reiki Master. She taught the family members how to use this techniques for both themselves and their person with dementia.
Not every support group would have the funds or access to creative arts therapist but as a leader consider ways to include creative experiences. They will bring unique ways to express the journey of dementia.
At times we have purchased small journals for the group members. We would encouraged their use and allow members, at future meetings, to share anything they wrote or drew.