Music and Art Therapy for People With Dementia

Music and Art Therapy for People With Dementia

Dementia is a disease that causes memory loss and problems with communication. Music and art therapy can help by stirring memories and providing an outlet for expression.

Dementia is a disease that affects memory and communication skills. It can be hard to help a loved one with dementia stay connected to the world. Music and art therapy may help revive memories and offer enjoyment.

How can music and art therapy help someone with dementia?

Memory loss can make daily life hard. Memory loss can lead to a loss of identity. Loss of identity can lead to depression. Music therapy can help stir memories in a person with dementia. Familiar songs can bring a sense of happiness. Spiritual music can bring a feeling of peace for someone with faith. Clapping and dancing are good exercise. Music therapy in a group can be a social outlet.

Dementia can cause confusion and fear. Being able to communicate this is important. Art therapy can help a person with dementia express his or her feelings. By drawing, a person with dementia who can no longer speak can show how he or she feels. Art therapy is a process of creation, and can help raise self-esteem.

Tips for getting the most out of music therapy

Using music as therapy for a person with dementia can be easy and enjoyable. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of music therapy:

  • Play familiar music. Use music that the person knows. Wedding songs, favorite singers and popular music will mean more than songs he or she has never heard.
  • Set the right tone and volume. Pick music that will create the healthiest mood for the listener. Slow music can help calm someone who is agitated or excited. Faster music might help boost mood and encourage clapping and other movement.
  • Avoid confusion. Try to reduce other noises when using music therapy. Make sure the music is loud enough for the person to hear, but not overwhelming. Keep songs simple and without interruptions like commercials. Tapes or CDs may be better than radio.
  • Add photos and other objects. Try to link the music with other parts of the person’s life. Looking at photos while listening to music can stir memories.
  • Let them decide. Watch for signs that the listener is getting tired or upset by the music. If possible, let him or her decide what music to listen to, and for how long.

Tips for getting the most out of art therapy

Art therapy can help a person with dementia express how he or she feels. Even when the person can no longer take part, watching someone paint or draw can be enjoyable. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of art therapy:

  • Be safe. The caregiver should closely monitor art therapy. Do not use toxic paints or sharp objects that can cause harm.
  • Gear activities toward his or her level. Do not pick projects that are child-like. Projects that are too simple can be boring for adults. Memory loss does not mean loss of creativity. Paint-by-numbers and coloring books may not be interesting enough.
  • Help him or her start. A blank sheet of paper or piece of clay might confuse someone with dementia. You may have to start a project by showing how to use the brush or pen. A few marks on the page should be enough to get the person started.
  • Help to create. Talk about the process of painting or drawing. Ask questions about what the person is creating and how it makes him or her feel. Encourage him or her to express feelings through art.
  • Let him or her lead. Always let the person decide what subject to paint, what colors to use and when to stop. Art projects can be worked on slowly over many sessions. Let him or her decide when the project is done.

Music and art therapy are not treatments for dementia. But these activities may help some of the symptoms. Music and art are things people with dementia can do to help connect with caregivers and others around them.

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