More Than Words
Business West Written by: Dan Chase
Art Therapy Adds a Color to the Palette of Treatment for Alzheimer’s
A picture might be worth a thousand words, but for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s, the value of art knows no boundary. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is both incurable and progressively degenerative. While science has not found a way to prevent it, caregivers, using both pharmaceuticals and various emotional and behavioral therapies, can still lessen the severity of the symptoms and improve quality of life for those afflicted with the disease. Dr. Simone Alter-Muri, associate professor at Springfield College in the school’s Visual and Performing Arts Department, said that Alzheimer’s might attack the brain, but using the wordless language of art can help that part of the individual that still remains. “Their mind may be affected,” she said, “but art is the language of the heart.” Art therapy for AD is a relatively new treatment.
But where it might lack a lengthy medical history, the treatment has picked up supporters from both the medical community and the art world.
In her 2005 book When Words Have Lost Their Meaning, art therapist Ruth Abraham wrote that, even as a relatively new resource for treatment of AD, “art therapy proves to be a powerful medium because it bypasses the dominant verbal aspects of brain function.”
A 2009 documentary called I Remember Better When I Paint examines the role of art in the science of treatment for Alzheimer’s. In the film, several renowned researchers and neurologists from leading American medical facilities explain what they have determined to be positive roles for visual and creative arts in the treatment of the disease.
From assisted-care facilities, art therapy has branched out to major museums across the U.S. Since 2006, the Museum of Modern Art in New York has hosted a monthly seminar for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Called “Meet Me: Making Art Accessible to People with Dementia,” the program is a guided tour through MoMA’s collections as a means of mental stimulation.