Regency Charlotte Blog

If you’ve spent time with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, you know from experience that communication can be a challenge. Long term memories go hazy, words aren’t always on the tip of the tongue, and you might be getting used to a shift in roles, such as child to caretaker. But with creative expression, you can ease some of the communication frustrations that come with the types of dementia. Creative expression is as simple as drawing images while listening to music, storytelling, dancing, and many more!  Artistic expressions can have a major impact, not only on quality time spent with loved ones, but on their overall mood and communication skills.

Charlotte dementia care activities

Studies have shown that giving seniors the opportunity to express themselves in this way can have a major benefit for their cognitive function, mental health, and quality of life. After all, just because they don’t discuss the same subjects and memories they used to doesn’t mean they don’t have something to say. Creative expression is a great opportunity to tap into feelings, observations, humor, and knowledge. The healing powers of art and other forms of creative expression, can likewise enhance memory and the ability to reminisce.

Those who have facilitated storytelling workshops and other narrative activities for seniors have noted that even those who are usually quiet and reluctant to speak become more engaged after participating in creative projects. In groups, memory care patients find new ways to relate and relay information. All that matters is that the seniors are invited to share in a positive environment. These exercises have been clinically shown to not only benefits patients, but caregivers, too. By focusing on what empowers and delights seniors, in return friends, family, and professionals have a more rounded view of those with dementia and Alzheimer’s and their capabilities.

One 2009 study revealed that the creative storytelling method can foster meaningful engagement between patients with dementia and their caregivers by encouraging seniors to rediscover their imaginations. In other words, by focusing on what memory care residents are good at and what they enjoy, the focus is put on the individual, rather than their condition.

The activity itself is pretty simple. Take photos of humans, animals, or even illustrations and ask residents what they think. Show another image, and ask how that impacts the narrative. For example, you could show a man on a plane, followed by an image of the same man on the beach. What do participants think he is doing? Is he on vacation? A scientist? A father in search of his long lost children? The possibilities are endless, as is the fun you might have when discussing them with the assisted living resident in your life.

Written by: Meghan O’Dea

Pineville seniors and musicIt can be so hard to watch your loved one struggle with the effects of memory disorders like Alzheimers and other forms of dementia. They cant always find the right words they need to communicate, fall behind on chores and simple routines, like cooking and hygiene. They might even wander off, which is not only frightening but potentially dangerous. This can be very stressful and frustrating not only for the person whose memory seems just out of reach, but also for the caregivers trying to keep up with ever-evolving symptoms, all while missing certain aspects of their loved one that seem to have disappeared with time.

If this sounds like you or someone you care about, you might feel like you have tried everything to help ease the strain of dementia. However, there might be one seemingly ordinary thing you can try that has been there the whole time: music.

Numerous studies have shown that music therapy for dementia patients fires neurons in the parts of the brain most affected by the disease. Humans of all ages respond to music differently than other noise, such as the sound of traffic or a lawn mower, this is because music is what scientists call, organized noise.In other words, there are patterns, rhythms, and an internal logic to music that humans have evolved a response to. Theres a whole part of the brain dedicated to processing the music we hear! When a song comes on, that part of the brain lights up, and in turn signals other areas of the brain to also respond.

Its part of why you cant help dancing when something good comes on the radio, even if youre sitting at a red light. Its also why you can hear a song from years ago and feel awash in memories and sensations from that time. Both young and old respond this way. Babies react to music long before they have the language skills needed to understand the lyrics. And anyone who has spent time with kids know how much they love the repetition, rhyme, sing-along-song quality of classic childrens songs and even the hooks of pop music. What seems so natural and impetuous, can help seniors that feel isolated and withdrawn, to communicate despite their Alzheimers or other forms of dementia.

Playing a favorite song, album, or artist for your loved one can get them moving by lighting up areas of the brain most affected by their illness, such as those related to the nervous system. Music can help those with memory issues recall things that are not only harder to access, but might be the sort of memories and information neurotypical people might forget about until a sensory cue reminds them. You know, the kind of things that make talking about music so much funlike biographical details about the musician, where you were when you last heard the song, or what you liked about the album art. Carefully listen to what your loved one says about their favorite songs or music from their youth, as it can be a wonderful way to reconnect outside the usual topics of medication reminders and daily doings.

Pull out old records or CDs and tailor the songs played to your loved ones moodupbeat songs for when they need a little stimulation or conversation, quieter songs for times of rest or when they need help calming down. Afterwards, chat a little about what you heard, or pull out paper and pens and each draw something inspired by the music, even if its abstract. You can compare drawings later, too. You might be surprised by what a big effect the right song can have, or if youre a music lover yourself you might understand completely. Some things are just an inherent part of being human, and getting excited about a great melody or a percussive beat that hits the right spot is one of them.

If you want more tips for how to navigate the complex world of memory care, you can find plenty of resources at the Alzheimers Association website. Some of what they offer includes message boards where you can connect with other caregivers, friends, and family who are also struggling with a love ones early, middle, and late-stage Alzheimers journey. There are also plenty of tools to help you find resources in your community. You can find them online at http://www.alz.org/care/.

If you need advice, support lines like the VeteransAffairs Caregiver Support Line can help. If you are looking for support or information on what the VA can provide, call 1-855-260-3274 or the Alzheimers Foundation of Americas line at 866-232-8484 (toll-free 9AM to 9PM Monday through Friday). 

Written by: Meghan O'Dea

Published in Memory Care

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