By Rick McVicar
While finding the right medicine for dementia is proving to be elusive, the arts can help fill the gap so that patients can have fuller lives.
Justine Schneider advocates for the use of the arts in “The Arts as a Medium for Care and Self-Care in Dementia: Arguments and Evidence,” June 1, 2018. The article can be found on a National Institute of Health website.
Schneider is mostly interested in visual art, music and dance. Crafts such as cooking, gardening and sewing have not been researched enough with dementia patients to include them as therapy.
The type of artform used as therapy depends a lot on the stage of dementia.
“Skills in activities of daily living are impaired as the disorder advances,” Schneider notes.
Nevertheless, arts can be adapted to each stage of the disease. For instance, dance can take place while participates sit in chairs. Even in later stages, patients can be exposed to colors and sounds.
Schneider writes that the arts have several benefits for both patients and caregivers.
“The arts may be used to entertain or distract, as well as to comfort, stimulate, soothe or affirm the identity of a person with dementia,” Schneider states.
Besides having psychological and social benefits, the arts help in combating stigma. Music is particularly helpful with reducing agitation while dance brings a sense of community.
Schneider refers often to a “manifesto” issued in 2011 by a group of European researchers pushing for the use of the arts. The arts are becoming more crucial for therapy as pharmaceutical companies have focused on treating symptoms rather than finding a cure.
Schneider’s article was originally published in Environmental Research and Public Health.