Completing crosswords, making a habit of Sudoku and playing challenging brain games on the Internet have long been suggested as methods of maintaining our cognitive health. These are all fine pursuits, but recent research by Mayo Clinic has shown that creative arts such as painting, drawing and sculpting may protect the mind against cognitive decline even better than the commonly used forms of brain exercise.
This video showcases chronologically-arranged samples of the watercolors of Alzheimer's artist Lester E. Potts, Jr. (1928-2007). The art was created over a 4 year period while Potts was a patient at Caring Days, a dementia daycare center in Tuscaloosa, AL (now The Mal and Charlotte Moore Center). Prepare for a few tears.
The treatment of people with dementia has changed dramatically since I first became personally involved with the disease. It's now widely recognized that while cognitive abilities change with dementia, there is still an individual residing in this damaged body. Those in the arts, especially, have seen that concentrating on what people can do, rather than what they can't do, is vital for quality of life. As this attitude spreads, we're seeing that people with dementia often show talents that we never knew existed.
...Theater has also been used as a type of therapy for people with Alzheimer’s disease. NPR reported on an outreach program at the Lookingglass Theater in Chicago that offers people with Alzheimer’s the chance to take part in improv theater. With this type of theater, people are able to live in the moment, which is natural to someone with Alzheimer’s. There was no struggle to remember the past or determine what to do in the future. According to the article, most of the participants leave the theater with a refreshed feeling of accomplishment.
Research continues to show that the arts enhance quality of life for people who have health problems, including Alzheimer’s disease and strokes. Patients who appreciated music, painting and theatre recovered better from their stroke than patients who did not…Patients interested in art had better general health, found it easier to walk, and had more energy. They were also happier, less anxious or depressed, and felt calmer.
Old movies via DVDs, as well as CDs of big band music
or other favorites of our elders’ generation have long been used as a
diversionary tactic. Now, Artists for Alzheimer’s (ARTZ) is spotlighting a new way that movies can be used to enhance the lives of people with Alzheimer's disease. ARTZ is a nonprofit based in Woburn, Mass. that creates cultural opportunities for people with dementia and their caregivers.
Their program, Meet me at the Coolidge…and make memories, is an interactive film program for people with memory loss and their care partners. “Short clips from classic films are shown, followed by audience discussion and reminiscence, guided by a moderator. This
program demonstrates how film can be a form of treatment for some of
the symptoms associated with memory loss, Alzheimer's disease and
related dementia. The cinema has the power to connect us with our
deep-rooted emotional memories - the kind that never leave us.