How Painting can help those living with Dementia

Written by Active Minds on Thursday the 19th of May 2016.

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Painting is a straight-forward way to get people living with dementia to think creatively. When someone is creatively stimulated this can impact on a wide range of other factors, like communication and emotional responses. Dementia does not affect every part of the brain at all times. Areas of the brain that are really involved with creativity such as the parietal lobe are often affected by dementia much later. Creative activities like painting and listening to music can stimulate this part of the brain and help people living with dementia to create a dialogue and express themselves through art.

Integrating art into the daily lives of people living with dementia helps them to process information in an easier way, through shape, colour and vibrancy. Dementia can impact people in different ways and it can be difficult to achieve a connection and meaning through certain activities. However, painting has been found to help people create this significance in a non-verbal way. The power of imagination can be tapped into and when people pick up a paintbrush, they are actively stimulating their imagination which in turn, can make them feel more connected to the world around them.

It can be easier for people living with dementia to communicate using creative methods, rather than using areas of the brain that rely on memory and logic. Trying to remember answers or recall the past can cause frustration and lead to anxiousness, but by allowing people to express themselves using art it can lead to reduced stress and worrying. Sometimes words can fail people but painting gives a way of representing a feeling or an emotion on paper. Some people find verbal communication difficult as their dementia develops, so having another outlet is essential if someone wants to feel understood.

Dementia can make people feel isolated, withdrawn and unable to communicate their emotions in a healthy way. When people can get together to collaborate through painting or paint alongside each other this can help to manage their behaviour, develop their social skills and improve self-esteem. Completing a painting can provide a sense of achievement and it can be a rewarding reminder on a wall at home to show someone what they are capable of. Painting can help people that have difficulty verbally communicating because they can focus solely on their painting and talk about it. It is something they have created, that they understand and they can take ownership of and comment on.

Painting is a great way for people to relax and bring them a sense of calmness in their surroundings. One of the best ways to help someone with dementia overcome feelings of frustration, tedium and anxiousness is to provide distractions. If someone has an activity that they can engage with that will take their mind off other worries, it can prevent them from wandering, becoming frustrated and boredom. Painting allows people to focus on something and intently concentrate, which can take their mind off physical, mental and emotional discomfort.