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Music, art and poetry evokes pleasure for dementia patients and their carers

Creative arts enhances patients’ quality of life

December 2019

Music, art and poetry evokes pleasure for dementia patients and their carers

Music, art and poetry evokes pleasure for dementia patients and their carers

Neil Smith dotes on his wife Dianne who was diagnosed with dementia two years ago.

The couple was among a group of dementia patients and their carers invited to join a creative arts program run by Arterie @ RPA. The pilot program, Workshops on Music + Art + Poetry (or WoMAP), aims to help ease the devastating impact the illness can have on families.

“My beloved partner Dianne… enjoyed the work enormously.

“The thing that impressed me…was the pleasure and involvement that Di achieved. [What she] got from it.

“She was almost a different person for a while… and I really appreciate that,” Mr Smith, a retired engineer who’s now in his 80s, said.

The Arterie @ RPA team partnered with RPA Neurology's Memory and Cognition Clinic to pilot a series of monthly workshops which combined music, art and poetry, with the support of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

During the two-hour sessions, dementia patients and their carers created artworks inspired by the collection at the Gallery. Music and poetry – linked to the art making activity – were also incorporated into the program.
“We selected 10 different musicians to work with. We’ve had the piano, violin, harp, drums, cello, saxophone, bagpipes, guitar and the flute.

“It enabled us to provide different tempos and moods. Then we selected a poem… [and created] an art making project that linked to the actual work using either the colour, theme, content or the music,” Amanda Solomon, the head of Arterie @ RPA, said.

The program culminated in an exhibition of the participants’ work at the Gallery.

“It’s an extraordinary honour,” she said.

Neurologist Dr Rebekah Ahmed is the Director of the Memory and Cognition Clinic which is staffed by a multidisciplinary team who aim to diagnose people with memory problems as early as possible and improve their quality of life.

Dr Ahmed has evaluated participants’ feedback about the workshops.

“What we found was that the patients had an increased ability to experience pleasure.

“And in terms of family’s stress and carer’s stress, that was reduced in people who had taken part in the program. And, the carers also had reduced anxiety and depression,” Dr Ahmed said.

There’s a strong link between dementia and the creative arts.

“Patients can often have, what we call, a renaissance in their art and music ability. Often, patients who have never been artists, who have never even touched a paint brush, can find actually while they’re losing other skills they can develop skills in painting and listening to music and interacting with the world in a different way.

“That’s really what we wanted to tap into with the Arterie program. So, hopefully the program has done something to make life just a tiny bit easier,” Dr Ahmed said.

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Page Last Updated: 27 May, 2020