Art Therapy for Older Adults with Dementia: Heuristic Reflection and Strategy of Clinical Practice

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Webb, Anna
Master of Arts in Art Therapy
Dementia is a progressive disease, and currently, there is no available cure. Approximately 5.8 million Americans have dementia, and it had been estimated that this number would increase to 14 million by 2050. People suffering from dementia not only experienced cognitive decline, but were also faced with anxiety, depression, apathy, and other problems related to the Later Adulthood stage of life. While there was no remedy, a variety of treatments had been used to slow down the disease's onset and progress. Studies had shown that art therapy could increase the well-being and life satisfaction of people suffering from dementia; however, more research was still needed to recognize the characteristics of art therapy interventions that were effective with the population. This arts-based heuristic research study explored the elements and effects of six diverse art therapy interventions that encompassed the whole spectrum of the Expressive Therapies Continuum and the use of diverse art media and techniques. The research was based on the art therapist's personal experience of working with older adults with dementia and her reflections from that work. The researcher's personal journal, with recorded observations of the sessions and photographs of completed art interventions, was used to facilitate further understanding. Emergent themes and patterns were consolidated into a proposal of six new art directives that this researcher recognized as the most engaging and appropriate for older adults with dementia.