Dec 27, 2014

Can Alzheimer’s Be Treated With the Arts?

I just finished reading an excellent and fascinating article about how music and the arts helps Alzheimer's patients thrive and live a higher quality of life.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room


It is becoming clear that the arts can improve cognitive function and memory.

There are also indications that the arts help improve mood and behavior; and, create a sense of well being and self worth in patients living with Alzheimer's and related dementia.

Does music help reduce stress, anger, and agitation? It did with my mother and there are thousands of readers here in the Alzheimer's Reading that would say - it does.

Many researchers agree evidence seems promising that the arts can improve cognitive function and memory, bolster a person’s mood and sense of well-being, and reduce stress, agitation and aggression.


However,  most previous studies have been limited or poorly designed.

The good news is The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institutes of Health and others are now funding research and looking for more answers.


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Small studies already completed indicate that:
  • Dance and movement help older people avoid falls.
  • Acting sessions strengthen the sense of social ties and community, and reduce feeling of isolation and loneliness.
  • Techniques using everything from drum circles to poetry have been shown to improve psychological symptoms, such as aggression, in patients with cognitive impairment.
  • Music therapy studies show reduced agitation, a greater sense of empowerment, and a greater sense of awareness.
  • Storytelling improves communication and expression.
The list goes on and on and is growing.

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Highlights from the article in the Washington Post.
Brett Sigmundsson, 52, belts out the lyrics of a Beatles tune while dancing in place with all the vigor of a middle-aged Mick Jagger. John Archer, 64, rises to his feet in dance. Up front, Norma Felter, 85, a former department store clerk whose eyes are glued to a TV screen showing the lyrics for “Hey Jude,” sings into a microphone, not always in sync with the words but joyfully all the same. Even those whose thoughts appear far away sometimes sway or tap their fingers in time to the beat.

Holly C. Matto, a professor of social work at GMU who is conducting the experiment at Birmingham Green, said people with cognitive impairment often feel overwhelmed by their inability to process and integrate information from their surroundings. Using the arts, particularly nonverbal arts such as painting and music, can help restore a sense of organizing their world.

“It makes me happy,” said Felter, who had been rocking to the Beatles from her wheelchair. She said the music helps her adjust to the stresses of living in a communal setting.

“Music brings memories. I basically try to remember the good times — I don’t like to dwell on the bad times — and music brings those out,” Dodd said. “I got a lot out of it.”
I really enjoyed the article and I suggest you consider reading it and sharing this article with family and friends, or via Facebook and Google Plus.

Can Alzheimer’s be treated with the arts? Researchers aim to determine the answer.


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Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco  is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide.
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