The 7 best art therapy activities for people with dementia

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Page last updated: 3/09/2022

This article will center on explaining some of the best art therapy activities that can be done with someone that is going through dementia. The article will explain how they can help, and what is art therapy.

The best art therapy activities for people with dementia 

Art therapy can be extremely helpful for people with dementia. Because the person with dementia can start to have trouble communicating, and expressing themselves, art therapy can help them express themselves differently. 

So as a way to deal with the emotions that may be arising, which can turn extremely dark, a person with dementia should take part in an art therapy session, or do some activities related to it. Let’s discuss what they can do.

Reminiscing painting

You may choose some images and pictures of the person, and ask them if those bring any feelings and emotions to them. Once they tell you how it has been making them feel, you can let them start to paint. 

Let them do it freely, in whatever method they can. You can participate in this activity, and make it more social by asking them questions about what they are drawing, and telling them to share their thoughts about their creations.

Colouring 

Colouring can be a good activity if the person with dementia is having trouble drawing already. This can happen because dementia may impact their fine motor skills and coordination. So as a way to keep them engaged in art therapy, you can suggest coloring.

You may do that with many different types of books, or even posters, which they can color freely. A way to boost their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment is by showing those works to other family members. You can even send them as Christmas cards.

Using clay 

Using clay can be a fun activity for people that have dementia. It can be a way for them to get their hands dirty, and use one of the many types of clay to create something that can express how they feel. It can also be a way to let them express their creativity.

Using paint-by-numbers kit 

Using a paint-by-number kit can also be a way to help patients with dementia that would have trouble drawing. Doing those paintings will allow them to put their creativity to work, and help them express themselves. In the same way as coloring, you can send those to other people as a way to show the patient such a great work they did.

Activities based on their careers 

This activity can be a great way to try and bring some sense of connection to their life now, and how it was. Try to understand better what they did when they were working, and if there is any way those former skills can take place in art therapy.

For example, they may have worked as a photographer. So you can suggest they organize some pictures, and do some collages with them.

Collages

In this activity you can give them a lot of instruments, newspapers, photographs, and magazines, so they can make a collage in whatever way they want. It can help trigger some memories, and you may ask them to share.

Simple crafts

Sometimes you may have a family member that is going through dementia and you don’t have all the materials to do a more elaborate activity, if that is the case, know that any type of craft will be a good one for them.

So if you have any chance of proposing any sort of craft to them, go on and do it. Even the least elaborate one will give them the chance to express their emotions, have a sense of accomplishment, and improve their self-esteem.

What is art therapy?

Art therapy is a technique that uses art to treat psychological and mental conditions. The main belief in art therapy is that through artistic activities the person will be able to express themselves, and through that, they can experience healing and an improvement in their well-being.

Through coloring, drawing, collages, doodling, finger painting, painting, photography, sculpting, and working with clay, the person will be able to explore their emotions, cope with stress, and even feel better about themselves.

After the client has done the art, they will often talk about how it made them feel. They will also be able to deal with conflicts that are having a huge effect on them.

What to take under consideration when doing art therapy activities with someone with dementia

If you are doing art therapy activities with a person with dementia you should make sure to keep the activities at the adult level. Treating them as a child can feel demeaning, and may have the opposite effect than what you aimed for.

Once you propose the activity, you can help them start, and once they feel comfortable and secure, they may start to do it themselves, at this point, you should let them take control. 

You should also give them as much time as they need. If you have a strict schedule, you may start to pressure them, which can make the activities more negative than helpful. Because of that, try to always do the art therapy activities when you have enough time to do them.

Aside from that, try to always look for safe materials. You should read the reviews of them before you buy them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ): What are the best art therapy activities for people with dementia? 

What are some activities I can do with a family member that has Alzheimer’s?

When you have a family member that has Alzheimer’s you may need to learn how to engage with them in activities once again. Their state can become worse, and sometimes doing the same things as they did before won’t be possible.

Here are some things you can do together. You can ask for their help watering a flower, feeding the birds, or even sitting on a bench at a park and watching the dogs playing. 

If you want to do something inside, you might want to go through family albums with them and recollect various stories. Having tea in the afternoon, or even playing a card game, or domino may also be fun.

If you feel they are a little down and have been having trouble caring for themselves, you can also help them with those. You can brush their hair, or give them a nice foot massage. Cooking them something they love, and having a snack in the afternoon with them may also be fun.

The 7 best art therapy activities for people with dementia

What are the biggest benefits of art therapy for people with dementia?

When a person with dementia is doing an art therapy activity, it will bring them multiple benefits. First of all, it will increase the brain stimulation of the person. And because that tends to go down when a person has dementia, by doing art therapy it may be possible to get a little improvement over their condition.

It is also a way to improve their memory, especially when they are asked to draw or paint something that is connected to a photo or something of their past. Art therapy will hardly bring back the whole memory, but it can bring the person a sense of joy for a happy moment that was lived.

It can also have an extremely positive impact on them since it causes them to have a great sense of achievement. Seeing that they were able to create something can be a sure boost to their confidence. It will also give them a space to express themselves creatively, which may help them deal with their emotions.

Because most of the art projects they will do require, even if just a little, some physical strength, by doing so, they may become better at that. And by the end of an art therapy session, they will most likely feel better about themselves, and their mood will be brighter.

What are ways to stimulate a family member that has dementia?

If your family member is going through some type of dementia, you can stimulate them by doing exercises. Physical activities can help them relax, and improve the quality of their sleep. They can do just a short walk around the neighborhood, and it may be enough.

You can also talk to them about things in their past. People with dementia will most likely have their long-term memory more preserved than their short term. Ask them about their childhood, their family, or even their favorite holiday memory. You can also invite them to do something they enjoyed doing before.

Cooking simple things can also be a way to get them more active, and getting them some animal therapy will often help them cope with their emotions, and improve their mood. If they can, you can invite them on an outing, you can go shopping together for example.

Exploring nature, doing some gardening together, or feeding birds at a local pond can be great if your loved one enjoys nature. You can also bring them to talk about matters they are passionate about. To help with that, you may watch some Youtube videos together to get them excited about the topic.

Doing music, or art therapy is a known way to stimulate them. But also, doing fun things like a puzzle, or crosswords can be extremely helpful. And sometimes, even just helping with the house chores, such as folding laundry, can be a way to stimulate them.

When do the dementia symptoms get worse?

It can happen that people with dementia will have their symptoms become worse during the late afternoon, and nighttime. People that have Alzheimer’s, for example, can become more irritable, agitated, and confused as the light goes down. 

The doctors have called this process sundowning, or sundown syndrome, and the person with dementia will often be better in the morning.

How can I help my family member that is going through Sundowning?

You can help them by making the night routine calmer. As you feel it is getting darker, you can close the blinds, and turn on the lights to help the patient feel calmer. Keep a nice temperature, and don’t make a lot of noise.

 Aside from that, during the end of the afternoon, and nighttime, you should avoid things that can impact their sleep such as caffeine, alcohol, or exercise 4 hours before bed.

Conclusion 

This article showed some of the best activities that can be done with people that are going through dementia. It explained what art therapy is, and how those activities will help people with dementia.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, feel free to write them in the section below.

References

https://www.heymylo.ie/post/art-therapy-creative-art-activities-for-dementia
https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-art-therapy-2795755

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