How Sensory and Art Therapy Can Improve Alzheimer's Patients Symptoms
While Alzheimer’s patients constantly feel a sense of loss in communication, basic skills, and overall quality of life, picking up a new hobby or developing a new talent can be rejuvenating. Art and other sensory therapies, for instance, have proven to be extremely relaxing and comforting for Alzheimer’s patients.
The powerful impact of art therapy sometimes even helps individuals who have lost their vision by allowing them to learn how to use their sense of touch to create beautiful portraits. This incredible tool soothes patients by stimulating their brain and allowing them to participate in an activity that can potentially alert old memories or encourage communication. Many art therapy patients are even motivated to continue other skills and activities such as cooking and playing music.
In The Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences, loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s disease used their artwork to convey past memories and events. The journal explains that art, whether it is sculpting or painting, allows patients to overcome their lack of communication skills by using their art as a means of expressing themselves. Because language triggers a different region of the brain than art or music, patients are able to continuously enhance their artistic skills while jogging their memory. Not only can art therapy provide a means of communication, but USA Today also states that it can help lessen aggression or frustration in Alzheimer's patients; many individuals report an immediate sense of calm and relief once they have a paintbrush in their hands.
If a patient is unable to hold brushes or use their hands, trained professionals and caretakers often help them recreate memories by painting for them as they begin to recall bits and pieces of past events. While art therapy is certainly not a cure for this overwhelming neurodegenerative disease, it brings participants joy, inclusion, a means to express themselves, and a chance to stimulate their brains.
Understanding Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer’s disease, also sometimes referred to as senile dementia, is a progressive brain disease that gradually destroys an individual’s memory, vision, and ability to carry out daily tasks. It is most commonly found in older adults and is currently irreversible. The most common early symptom of this neurodegenerative disease is short-term memory loss, or difficulty recalling recent events. According to Medical News Today, over 4.7 million people above the age of 65 years old suffer from Alzheimer’s disease in the United States. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most commonly diagnosed type of dementia, which is the general category for memory loss and possible loss of other cognitive abilities. While the number of diagnosed patients is high, Alzheimer’s disease is not a medically normal characteristic of aging. In fact, onset of the disease has been diagnosed in over 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 as well.
Although there is no clear cause, Alzheimer’s disease is believed to be motivated by a combination of genetics, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors. As this unfortunate and heartbreaking disease progresses, brain cells continue to die and overall brain size begins to shrink as well. While this degeneration of brain cells and tissue cannot be seen or tested while the patient is alive, most post-mortem reports display the abnormal changes in the patient’s brain. Many families and individuals taking on this distressing disease may feel hopeless watching their loved ones deteriorate, but luckily, there are activities and therapies available for patients to combat and alleviate the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.