Music and art can enrich the lives of people with Alzheimer’s. Both activities allow for self-expression and engagement, even after Alzheimer’s has progressed.
It can be powerful! Studies have shown that music might reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even when the person is in the later phases of Alzheimer’s, they may still be able to tap a beat or sing the lyrics to a childhood song. Music provides a ways to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult. Use the following tips when selecting music for a person with dementia:
- Identify music that is familiar and enjoyable. If possible, let the person choose the music.
- Choose a source of music that isn’t interrupted by commercials which can cause confusion. Use music to create the mood you want, for example, a tranquil piece of music can help create a calm environment.
- Encourage movement to add to the enjoyment.
- Avoid sensory overload; eliminate competing noises by shutting windows and doors and turning off the televisions. Make sure to maintain a comfortable volume level on the music
Art projects can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose. They can provide an opportunity for self-expression for the person that has dementia as well as the caregiver. When planning an art activity for someone with middle to late stage Alzheimer’s, keep these tips in mind:
- Make sure the project is adult level. Avoid anything that might be demeaning or that seems child-like.
- Build conversation in to the project. Provide encouragement; discuss what they are creating or reminiscing.
- Help the person begin activity. If they are painting, you may need to start the brush movement. Most of other projects should only require basic instruction and assistance.
- Use safe materials. Be sure to avoid toxic substances and sharp tools.
- Allow plenty of time, keeping in mind that the person does not have to finish the project in one sitting
The next time you are thinking of doing an activity with the person you are caring for that has Alzheimer’s, try out some music or start an art project.
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