Something happened when Brant Kingman handed his mother a colored pencil.
In the three years since Polly Penney, 87, was diagnosed with dementia, she had lost much of her short-term memory and some of her language. So she would ask Kingman the same question again, then again. Out of “absolute out-of-my-mind frustration,” Kingman, an artist, decided to try drawing together.
Penney grew quiet. Her shoulders loosened. “It silenced her so we could sit together,” Kingman said. “And then every now and then, lucid thoughts would appear to her.”
Almost unintentionally, he tapped into a national trend: using art as therapy for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. There are now art workshops for Alzheimer’s patients. Painting, poetry and pottery classes are tailored to dementia’s tics. Giving Voice Chorus, a pair of Twin Cities choirs for people with dementia, has created a tool kit so other cities might start their own.
Neurological disorders that attack memory and verbal communication can spare creativity, some research shows. In special cases, Alzheimer’s and frontotemporal dementia can even kick artistic ability into overdrive, said Dr. Bruce Miller, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco. If the disease attacks circuits on one side of the brain, he said, it might spark an interest or ability in the other side.
“It’s all about the geography,” said Miller, director of the university’s Memory and Aging Center. “It’s where the disease hits that is a determinant of what is lost — but sometimes what is gained.”
Partly because it offers another way to communicate, art therapy is “going to become, more and more, a regular part of how we look after people,” he said. MORE HERE