Communication can happen with words, gestures, body language, art-making, writing. Art can remove some of the barriers that are caused by changes in language or speaking abilities.
The value of the shared experience and social connection is one of the most significant things that I took from our first program. We started off thinking about the person with dementia and how to facilitate an experience for them. In early thinking, the partner was a way of overcoming some of the accommodations, but what we saw was something so much more significant.
When a family or friendship has changed from a partnership into a situation where one person is caring for the other, that relationship has changed, for both people. The beauty in art and object-based programs that are designed with the person with dementia and their partner in mind is that for a time that relationship shifts. The two partners work together, and share an experience. They see themselves and their loved ones in a new light – really seeing their abilities in action, or seeing talents that they didn’t know were there.
In addition, there are positive benefits for care partners who participate or accompany the person with dementia. They are able to experience their loved one engaging, expressing themselves, and enjoying the activity in a safe, comfortable environment. As well, they can experience and appreciate the experience themselves, socializing and sharing time with others. A growing body of research confirms the anecdotal evidence that the arts can improve quality of life, reduce stress, and allow the person to better connect to the world. (reference here)
Art and object-based programs are ideal to support the abilities and interests of the participant. These programs facilitate and exchange of ideas, they make connections between the participants and the world at large, and they spark connection to personal experiences and long term memory. And most importantly, everyone participates in a meaningful and enjoyable activity.
You will learn more about supporting abilities in Module 2.