Nurturing the Heart: creativity, art therapy and dementia
“…Honouring the capacity to create in people with dementia is the underlying intention of this paper. All human beings are creative, but, when one is living with dementia, that creativity may need to be supported and encouraged by others trained to foster creative expression. The paper is entitled “Nurturing the heart” to indicate that, as human beings, people with dementia, perhaps even more than before, need to feel part of a caring community, which values and respects them. They need to be valued, not just for what they have contributed in the past, but, as they are right now. Watching a person with dementia painting or writing is to be filled with awe, for, regardless of memory loss, the person is expressing and revealing a unique identity.
Practically, the paper is intended for all those people, who live with and interact with those courageous individuals, who have dementia. The paper may also be of interest to some of those living with memory loss, as it describes ways to free the creative flow so that creative activity is possible. For Art Therapists the paper offers a validation of their professional therapeutic work and provides some guidelines as to the special ways of working with people with dementia. Diversional Therapists, especially those working in residential aged care facilities, and family members willing to engage in creative activities with loved ones, may gain some useful hints about how to encourage a person with dementia to start on a creative project and glean some ideas about what kinds of creative activities may be satisfying to the person with dementia.
Art therapy is becoming increasingly recognized as having a contribution to make in the area of quality dementia care. Art therapy, which grew out of psychotherapy, engages with a person’s creativity to initiate a process – whether through painting or drawing, sculpting or writing – that is healing and whole-makin . The very process of being a creator empowers by allowing for a flow of energy and life. It makes well, because it is an essential part of being human. It strengthens because in using creative energy to make something external to the person, the work remains even after she or he has forgotten creating the image…”