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5 Star Home Care Suggests Using Art and Music to Reach Alzheimer’s Patients

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Part of what makes Alzheimer’s disease so difficult to cope with is the disheartening belief a loved one has vanished. It can be as difficult for us to recognize what remains of them as it is for them to recognize us. Kenny Higdon, owner of 5 Star Home Care, suggested art therapy as one method of engaging them. His company employs caregivers who help seniors and those living with a disability or recovering from an injury or illness to perform day-to-day activities. 


“My heart goes out to anyone with Alzheimer’s and their family,” Higdon said.  “We take care of the bathing, dressing, doing laundry, light housekeeping, meal preparation, and transportation so they can concentrate their energy on reaching out and staying connected to their loved one. It may seem as if someone is gone in a mental fog, but research suggests using creativity -- drawing, music, painting, sculpture, and other art forms -- as a therapeutic technique has a calming effect on them and allows us to interpret what is communicated through self-expression.” 

5 Star Home Care understands that Alzheimer’s disease gradually diminishes a person’s ability to communicate. “Reaching someone requires understanding and good listening skills. A person may easily lose his or her train of thought, use familiar words repeatedly or have difficulty organizing words logically. Art and music can reduce stress, increase self-esteem and self-awareness, and achieve insight,” Higdon said.

“Although a trained professional is better skilled at using art and music in a therapeutic way, anyone can try it. Engage them on a different level while relying on 5 Star to take care of the day-to-day tasks of life,” he said.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Memories in the Making® (MIM) art program gives people with dementia the ability to paint their thoughts, emotions and memories. These documented memories become powerful tools that reassure family and caregivers that the essence of the individual is still there. For example, one artist painted a birdhouse sharing his lifelong love of building and hanging birdhouses in the yard. Another painted a fish remembering the hours spent nurturing his tanks of tropical fish.

“The loss of language doesn’t mean the loss of the desire to express oneself. In fact, the part of the brain responsible for creativity is one of the last to be affected by the disease. The paintings, sketches and drawings created by these artists are often highly expressive, beautiful and hopeful.  In viewing the art, the families, caregivers and the public are often touched by the tangible evidence of what remains of the individual,” the Association states.

Higdon agrees, noting that “music can be powerful and enrich lives. Studies have shown music may reduce agitation and improve behavioral issues that are common in the middle-stages of the disease. Even in the late-stages of Alzheimer's, a person may be able to tap a beat or sing lyrics to a song from childhood. Music provides a way to connect, even after verbal communication has become difficult.”

When selecting music, Higdon recommends finding something that’s familiar and enjoyable to the person – their own choice if possible. 

“A tranquil piece of music can help create a calm environment, while a faster paced song from someone's childhood may boost spirit and evoke happy memories. Avoid sensory overload from competing noises: Turn off the television, make sure the volume of the music isn’t too loud, and shut doors and windows. Also, choose a source of music that isn't interrupted by commercials, which can cause confusion.” 

When reaching out through visual art, Higdon reminds families to use safe materials and avoid toxic substances and sharp tools. 5 Star’s professional caregivers are carefully screened because safety and the client’s well-being are critical, as is patience, dignity and compassion. 

“Avoid anything that might be demeaning or seem child-like,” Higdon said. “It needs to be fun, so provide encouragement and discuss what they are creating or reminisce. You might have to start the brush movement. Allow plenty of time, keeping in mind that a painting or drawing doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting.”

The things that people omit from a work can be just as informative.

“With dementia, sometimes the emotions being expressed are more important than what’s being said. Look for the feelings behind the words,” Higdon suggested. He hopes that families will try employing some form of art therapy as they reach out to a loved one. 

About 5 Star Home Care

Higdon started 5 Star Home Care in 2007 after his own mother took on the responsibility to care for his grandmother. 5 Star carefully connects them with clients across Tennessee. For families who are concerned about the health and safety of their loved one, reach out to 5 Star Home Care at (423) 893-8181.

Realizing how precious our seniors are, 5 Star employs the most qualified caregivers who are hired only after undergoing careful background checks and drug screens.  The company’s procedures are tailored to work towards constant monitoring, care management and never placing the senior at risk of being left without care. 

5 Star Home Care is headquartered in Chattanooga and serves clients throughout Tennessee. 

Home care services exist to provide the basic services that facilities do – light housekeeping, meal preparation and social activities – without removing the senior from the familiarity of home. It is a cost efficient alternative to an assisted living facility that preserves the aging loved one’s sense of freedom and comfort. 

If you are struggling with how to best care for an aging or disabled relative, call or visit at 423-893-8181 today.

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