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Being creative can help people in care, as well as caregivers. Studies have shown music and art can enhance the lives of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions such as autism and cerebral palsy.

Enabling people to participate in creative activities encourages self-expression and engagement. This improves quality of life by reducing agitation and distressing behaviour.

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In turn, it makes life a little easier for caregivers.

Research shows the role can have a negative impact on carers’ physical and mental health. Enjoying singing and music can improve their social and emotional wellbeing and ability to cope, leading to a better relationship.


Dementia and music

Providing music for dementia patients can enrich their lives. Studies reveal music may reduce the agitation that is common in the disease’s middle-stages.

The person may be able to sing the lyrics, or tap out the beat, of a familiar song from childhood, even in the later stages of Alzheimer’s. It can provide a way to connect when verbal communication has become challenging. This is because music connects people to meaningful moments, offering an emotional link to those special memories that we never want to lose.

When choosing music for someone with dementia, play songs that are familiar to them. If possible, let them choose by playing snippets and determining which track prompts a positive response.

Don’t leave them just listening to the radio, as commercials or DJs can cause confusion. Use an uninterrupted source of music, such as a CD.

The music can create the mood you’re aiming for, such as choosing a tranquil song to produce a calm environment, or a faster-paced song from the patients’ childhood to evoke happy memories and lift their spirits. Encourage them to move to the beat to add to their enjoyment.

Before you start a music session, avoid sensory overload by eliminating competing noises. Turn off the television, close the windows and doors and never have the volume too loud.


Arts and crafts for dementia patients

Arts and crafts projects can promote a sense of accomplishment and purpose for dementia patients, providing an opportunity for self-expression.

If you’re planning activities for a person with middle to late-stage Alzheimer’s, there are a few tips to keep in mind.

Avoid activities that seem too childlike, as this can feel demeaning. Always keep the project at adult level and build conversation into the activities. Encourage the patient to discuss what they are creating and reminisce as they paint or draw.

You may need to help them start, such as showing them the brush movement at first, until they get used to it. Most projects should be devised to require only basic assistance and instruction.

Avoid using sharp tools or toxic substances and allow plenty of time. The person doesn’t need to complete their painting in one sitting.


Autism sensory music

Autism can often make it difficult to communicate and some can show distressed and sometimes aggressive behaviour as a result.

Research has found that music helps people with autism to improve their social skills and become more confident. It can calm the anxiety and stress levels of autistic adults and children, reducing distressed behaviour.

When children with autism sit together and take music lessons from a therapist, they learn how to express themselves better. It helps them to share a bond with their friends and teachers.

Music positively affects the part of our brain that controls emotions, activating “happy hormones”. This makes it a great stress reliever that shows positive results, reducing depression and panic attacks.

It improves social behaviour when an autistic person listens to music, as it is calming and peaceful. Therapists suggest using musical instruments and techniques to help reduce anger and stress.

Thanks to improvements in technology, manufacturers have invented some amazing gadgets for music therapy, such as a soundbar, which you can control via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or a mobile app.


Autism and art therapy

Using art therapy with autism patients is beneficial because it’s highly subjective. Each child is unique, with their own individual abilities, needs and strengths.

Their responses could be different, but the beauty of art is that people can adapt as individuals in order to express themselves. Autism art therapy is a great way for people to communicate in a non-verbal way.

When children with autism participate in an art class together, it helps them to build stronger relationships, see things from other perspectives and improve their coping skills. It enables greater sensory and emotional regulation, which can positively impact behaviour.

Music therapy for autism encourages participants to work together using percussion and digital music technology, enabling them to unite in a common rhythm, according to the British Association of Music Therapy.


Music therapy and cerebral palsy

For adults and children with cerebral palsy, music therapy can offer plenty of benefits that can help learning skills, while reducing stress and soothing anxiety.

The concept of music therapy was introduced as a formal treatment for people with a disability in the 1940s. Just as we might arrive home from a stressful day at work and put on some music to unwind, people with cerebral palsy can relax in a joyful environment that helps to improve their overall wellbeing.

The beauty of music and art therapy is that all the family can get involved making fun memories together.

You can organise sessions as often as you please. Some choose once a week and keep to a set routine, while others go for a session “when needed”.

Another benefit of both music and art therapies is improved sleep routines. A busy session can leave participants feeling more relaxed and naturally tired, which can aid those struggling with sleep problems.

For more information on Creative Caregiving: Music, Art and Compassion talk to Kinderkey Healthcare Ltd

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