How Creativity Can Help Dementia Symptoms

Mar 8, 2024 | Signs, Symptoms and Science of Dementia

Whether it’s painting, making music or arts and crafts, creativity can reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression and improve cognitive health. Participating in creative activities, or even just enjoying a performance can help individuals with dementia to be more present and engaged – and can even trigger long-forgotten memories.

We saw this firsthand when Sundara resident Marilyn Whitman delighted us with an impromptu piano concert, playing from memory. Dementia didn’t keep Marilyn from instinctively knowing which keys to press or when to use the piano’s pedals. There’s something about creativity that inspires and motivates, that allows someone to break through life circumstances, even dementia, to let their talents, personality and life story shine through. 

How Creativity Can Help Improve Dementia Symptoms

Creativity Can Sharpen the Senses and Encourage Individuals With Dementia To Act

One study found that art and music therapy can “sharpen the capacity of the senses” in individuals with dementia, allowing them to be more aware of and engaged with the world around them. The same study also found that creativity motivates individuals with dementia to act of their own accord.

Creativity Improves Overall Wellbeing

Nonverbal therapy methods, such as painting and music, have been found to influence the well-being of senior living residents positively.

Related: Finding Joy in Life With Dementia

Group Art Therapy Can Promote Socialization and Protect Participants From Isolation

Art therapy is even more powerful when used in a group setting. Group art therapy can help fight isolation and loneliness and encourage senior living residents to be more social.

Creativity Can Ease Dementia-Related Agitation

Sam Fazio, PhD, senior director of quality care and psychosocial research at the Alzheimer’s Association, says that “using art, music, or another favorite activity to stay connected to someone living with dementia can have several potential benefits,” including lessened anxiety, agitation and aggression, improved overall mood, and being more socially and mentally engaged.

Creativity Can Reduce the Risk of Developing Dementia

Individuals who’ve already been diagnosed with dementia aren’t the only ones who can reap the benefits of creative expression. One study looked at older adults with mild cognitive impairment who were at risk for dementia. Those who received cognitive training along with a creative expression program showed better results than those who just received cognitive training, showing that creativity may prevent dementia.

Tips for Practicing Creativity at Home

If you’re a family caregiver for someone with dementia, you can help your loved one improve their well being and cognitive health through creativity. And you don’t have to invest in lots of supplies or equipment. Here are a few simple ways you can help your loved one to express themself creatively, right at home:

  • Play songs from your loved one’s youth. Ask them or their friends what they listened to in their teens or 20s
  • Check in on your loved one while you play music. Are they enjoying it? Encourage them to be more engaged by clapping or dancing to the beat – but if they seem agitated, try another song or genre
  • Figure out which songs or genres soothe your loved one. Make a playlist of these songs to play when they’re feeling agitated
  • Give your loved one tools for creative expression – paints, colored pencils, a harmonica, etc. – and show them what to do if necessary
  • Talk about your loved one’s creations with them. This will give you insight into their creative vision, help you to connect with one another and possibly trigger memories

Creativity for Fun – And Cognitive Health – At Sundara

 At Sundara, we regularly practice creativity as a group and encourage our residents to be creative whenever possible. The benefits of creative expression for individuals with dementia have been proven through research many times over, but it’s more than that. We see the way our residents respond to art and music. We see the way art makes their eyes light up, and how it allows them to once again experience lost memories and re-live another time in their life. 

Here are some of the ways we’ve used creativity to benefit and connect with our residents:

Curious about life at Sundara? Come see for yourself how we foster self-expression, growth and wellness in our residents.

Schedule your visit today.