For seniors living with dementia or other mental illnesses, communication can be the greatest difficulty. Finding the words to express themselves, and alternatively understanding the words of others, becomes a frustration. That is why non-verbal cues become vital – tone of voice, body language, touch, and less often used – creative expression. Art therapy is a relatively new field, but one showing immense success. Art therapy includes a range of creative expression, commonly music, painting or drawing, and poetry or storytelling.
Even when words are a struggle, music conveys tone and emotion in a more powerful way than words alone ever can. Music therapy has been shown to benefit moods for all people, including dementia and mental illness patients. Through music, an individual is taken on a journey from their current state to one of peace and calm. Music therapy is great in crisis situations, to bring someone back to a happier state.
Painting as therapy
Artistic outlets in drawing or painting can really help dementia sufferers, especially those who previously found joy in using their hands for work or hobbies. Often people suffering from dementia or a mental illness will feel a sense of a lack of control, and the freedom of a white canvas and a palette of colours can be a great relief from that sensation.
Storytelling as therapy
Storytelling as therapy is an intriguing technique that involves a trained facilitator, and is often held in group therapy environments. The facilitator will aid the group in writing a story, using imagery and other sense to encourage group members to participate and use language to develop a story line.