074: Art Therapy and Dementia


Do you have a spouse or loved one who has dementia? Hearing them say “I love you” or share a memory is something that every caregiver hopes for. And in those rare instances, it truly gives a renewed sense of purpose in life. Unfortunately, often, after being diagnosed with dementia, patients are prescribed drugs that, in some cases, cause depression or suppress who they are. But what if there was a way to reduce the medications and boost the mental well-being of the person with dementia and the spouse or caregiver? Interestingly enough, evidence shows that art plays a role in improving neural health. Art therapy is being taught as an alternative approach to dementia cases, providing an opportunity for patients to boost their mood and change their behavior without diminishing their quality of life.

In this episode, Kirsten sits down with the incredible Angel Duncan. Angel is a mental health, art therapist, and research clinician specializing in therapeutic program developments for people with mental health, developmental, intellectual, cognitive, and memory disorders. Angel has an extensive background in counseling psychology, life development, and Alzheimer’s disease phase 1b, 2, and 3 clinical research trials. She works globally with leading organizations on brain health initiatives and is a widely published author and speaker.

During their discussion, Kirsten and Angel dive into the science behind art therapy, explaining how and why it works. Duncan also shares countless examples of patients who practice art therapy demonstrating the behavioral changes and how they reconnect with their spouses again or learn to engage with their caregivers. If dementia or mental health issues have impacted your life or the life of someone you know, this episode is for you. Tune in now for more on the benefits of art therapy and why Angel Duncan has spent her career advocating for this life-changing form of treatment.

Big Three from Episode #074:

  1. Research shows that by engaging in art, which taps into certain regions of the brain, those with dementia are also getting neural activation and productivity. Ultimately, this leads to a shift in mood and behavior.
  2. Art Therapy is found to be helpful for all forms of dementia and, really, all types of mental health issues. Just because someone has dementia or another cognitive issue, doesn’t mean their creativity goes away.
  3. Case studies and research demonstrate exactly how art therapy brings those with dementia out of their box, helping them reconnect with the outside world.

Time-stamped Show Notes:

3:08 – Long-term memory is returning for dementia patients through the process of Art Therapy. Listen now to hear Angel Duncan share the benefits of staying artistically creative for those suffering from neurological diseases.

5:43 – Studies prove that art truly does work for people who have dementia. Start listening now for more on how art is helping neurological disease.

8:05 – Relationships between caregivers, whether family or professional and dementia-infected patients are becoming nurtured with empathy because of art therapy.

10:13 – More often than not, psychotropic drugs are the go-to fix for dementia patients, causing diminished behavior. Angel answers how art could be used as an alternative to psychotropic drugs.

14:21 – Angel Duncan has advocated for art therapy for almost 20 years. Listen to her journey and the life-changing work that has come from working with like-minded physicians.

17:43 – Press play here to learn what different creative mediums are included in art therapy treatments.

21:11 – Ask Kirsten Segment: Kirsten answers an email from Maria in Danville looking for advice on how to encourage her mother, who has dementia, to do an estate plan. If you have a question that you’d like to have answered by Kirsten, send an email to info@absolutetrustcounsel.com.

23:56 – Listen to how Angel helped co-create Art in Mind for dementia patients at the Yale Art Gallery.

28:08 – Angel Duncan’s Art Therapy Workshop is not just for dementia patients but also for spouses and caregivers. Listen in as Angel shares stories and feedback from those who have participated in the workshop.

30:06 – Interested in learning more about art therapy? You don’t want to miss out on this special event -The 12th annual Expressive Therapy Summit is hosting Neurosciences and Aging Symposium and Track Series for aging populations. Listen here for more details on the event.

32:18 – Live Q&A: Do you find art therapy to be helpful in all forms of dementia?

Resources/Links in this Episode:

Cognitive Dynamics

Lorenzo’s House

About Angel Duncan – How to get in touch about programs

Expressive Therapy Summit

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