Can art be therapeutic, even if a person was never an artist or very ‘artsy’?

Art is an excellent way someone can express himself in a non-verbal manner. It is one of the common therapies used for people with dementia. In essence, it is another way of journaling thoughts and feelings, just in pictures not words. 

Caregivers should remember to savor the moment when a person with dementia is creating art; it is not the end result that should be celebrated (necessarily) but rather the process. If an individual with Alzheimer’s is having fun while creating some piece of art, realize you have achieved success and art will have served its purposed. It is “the process of getting there” that is the key. Realize ahead of time that your loved one might finish a painting with satisfaction but a short time later fail to recognize it. 

There is a highly commendable program run by the Alzheimer’s Association called “Memories in the Making.” It involves volunteer artists going to facilities to work with watercolors with small groups of people with Alzheimer’s. The facility purchases supplies for the project through the Alzheimer’s Association. To see someone who hasn’t spoken for months pick up a brush and begin to paint is beyond expression. It is incredibly uplifting. 

You can simulate this program in a home setting, too. Seek out artists in your community who would be interested in volunteering some time. The artist can either recommend materials to you or bring them himself or herself. It’s not uncommon for someone with Alzheimer’s to resist taking part in an activity like this. Praise their efforts, no matter how big or small, and encourage them throughout. Remember: It is the process, not necessarily the end product, that is the goal. That said, often you will still be amazed at the results.