According to the World Health Organization, 35.6 million people worldwide are suffering from dementia, and that number is expected to double by 2030 and then triple by 2050. For seniors, the problem can be even more widespread. With such a rapid rate of growth, the need for new and innovative coping strategies is more urgent than ever.

Defining Dementia

Dementia is often confused with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) because it affects the memory. While the two can occur simultaneously (dementia is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease), people may have dementia without Alzheimer’s.

Dementia is a modern medical term that has replaced the more stigmatizing term “senility.” To be diagnosed with dementia, a group of symptoms are usually present, the most obvious among them being memory problems. Then at least one other area of cognition will be affected as well.

This can include:

  • Language
  • Attention
  • Problem-solving abilities
  • Spatial skills
  • Judgment
  • Planning
  • Organization

Hope for Those With Dementia

Most people, especially family members and caregivers who remember their loved ones before dementia, see it as an irreversible aging process where nothing new can now be learned or created. The National Center for Creative Aging in Washington, DC, is aiming to change this way of thinking. The center’s executive director Gay Hanna believes that programs that tap into the creative process are central for continued learning and growth in the face of dementia.

New programs around the country are being developed to help the aging population suffering from dementia to focus their thoughts and attention on more creative pursuits. Just because memory and certain other cognitive functions may be weak, many patients’ creative abilities are still fully intact.

Programs that are focused on creative expression for seniors struggling with a dementia diagnosis include:

  • Writing
  • Storytelling
  • Dance
  • Music
  • Painting

Programs Aid but Also Add Meaning

With a large aging baby boomer population, it will become increasingly important to expand programs that focus on creativity and imagination for seniors. These programs don’t just address the disorder itself but help patients with dementia feel that they have a purpose for the first time in a long time. For example, a senior with dementia may have a difficult time pulling the right word up at the right time when they are talking, but writing uses a different region of the brain. With written expression, especially the use of writing tools such as metaphor, it gives someone with dementia an outlet for communication that is comfortable and easy.

In addition to providing a psychological and emotional release for the patient, the time a senior spends doing a favorite creative activity also helps to decrease the pressure on their caregiver. Programs such as these become a win-win for all involved.

Don’t let a diagnosis leave you without hope. Treatment is available for seniors and others with behavioral health issues like dementia. Reach out to us to find out more about programs that can help.