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Recent Research Reveals How Art Can Benefit Dementia Patients

Thanks to advances in health care, people are living longer. For many this is a blessing, however there are unfortunate cases where individuals face other problems with their physical or mental health. In many instances these individuals are cared for by their families, however when this is not possible, a residential care home may be considered.

Art at Kingswood Care Home

One major issue is that more people face memory loss, which can affect their ability to go about their everyday lives. Alzheimer’s Society statistics warn that by 2025 there will be one million people with dementia in the UK. It says that 80% of people living in care homes have some form of dementia or memory problems.

This is distressing for the sufferer as well as their families. However, there are some things which can be done to improve the memories of dementia patients and even prevent people getting dementia in the first place.

A recent study by 2020 Research, in association with Spirit of Creation, has revealed that music and art therapy can help to improve the memory and communicative abilities of dementia patients.

As the number of people with dementia increases, commissioners are spending time looking for new ways to deal with the issue. Damian Hebron, a board member of the National Alliance for Arts, Health and Wellbeing (NAAHW), has already highlighted that art is helping to connect people with dementia to their families and their carers.

Dementia Sufferers Respond to Music

The researchers carried out their study in a number of care homes in the UK with dementia patients. The residents were treated to a live performance by singer-songwriter Beatie Wolfe. Over the next few weeks, they listened to her music and that of other performers.

The response from dementia sufferers was immediate. They became more alert and would move or hum along to the songs. Over the next couple of weeks, their ability to communicate and memory skills improved.

The results are certainly encouraging, and it is hoped more care homes will include music programmes in their daily activities for residents. This could be live performances or they could download music from different genres which would be of interest to that particular age group.

They could even download a special song list for each patient with tunes they particularly liked in the past, such as rock ‘n’ roll or songs from the musicals.

Music Seems to Fill a Gap That Words Cannot

The Creative Dementia Arts Network, which links arts and music specialists with people who care for dementia sufferers in the UK, says patients’ ability to respond to music, colour and texture remains intact even when they cannot remember names or places.

Recent research shows exposure to music can help dementia sufferers to respond and can even improve their memories.

In Yeovil District Hospital in Somerset, about 400 dementia patients have benefited from art and music therapy since it was introduced a year ago, according to a report in the Guardian. The hospital says it is more effective and cheaper than preventative medication, and they get a lot of pleasure out of it too.

Music, arts and crafts may also prevent more people from developing dementia in the future. A study by Dr Rosebud Roberts at the Mayo Clinic in the US said those who actively take part in arts and crafts in middle and old age were 73% less likely to develop memory problems than those who did not pursue such hobbies.

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