Creative Arts Team up With Hospice to Enhance Patient€s’ Well-Being

Art therapy has long been known to offer therapeutic effects for the dying. As January 31st approaches — Inspire Your Heart With Art Day — we ponder how art can affect your heart. Valued and appreciated for many reasons, the creation of art, whether through paintings, sculpture or water colors — can move us to tears or bring joyous laughter. Art has the power to change us and inspire our hearts, particularly when we are dying. In the hospice setting, the use of art therapy can help patients and their family members reflect and connect through the shared medium of art in Alameda County and elsewhere.

Art therapy offers a way for patients to take stock and review their lives through creative encouragement. A universal need, this form of creativity can take many forms, such as:

  • Story telling
  • Songs
  • Poetry
  • Visual arts
  • Video

The process of reflecting through these mediums explores the value of each individual’s uniqueness. In addition, it helps them feel cared for, honored, respected and loved.

Benefits of Art Therapy in Hospice

The Connecticut Hospice was the first of its kind in America (founded in 1974) to recognize the value of the arts in hospice care. Katherine Blossom, Arts Director for The Connecticut Hospice, says it best: “Creativity is a leading life force of humanity. Share it with others. Help them find their own creativity.” She goes on to liken creativity with a bridge encouraging people to connect.

At The Connecticut Hospice, just as in a growing number of hospices around the country, the patients are treated to a rotation of artists, musicians, art and music therapists, teachers, and volunteers. In-patient programming offers group and individual activities, live music and bedside visits, books, CDs and movies, exhibits by local artists, concerts and performances, and even portraiture services. Some even offer complimentary therapies such as yoga, meditation, Reiki, and Qi Gong to integrate spirit, mind and body.

Art therapy has many physiological benefits. Because it’s presented in a non-threatening environment, patients can relax and let their guards down.  With exposure to less stress and anxiety, their need for pharmaceuticals is reduced as well.

Art therapy also offers a unique approach to supporting patients and families. Benefits for patients may include the improvement of emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being, along with the addressing of psycho-social needs and improved cognitive functioning. Benefits for family members are far-reaching as well, as it can help them cope with impending loss, learn more about their loved one, and act as a form of bereavement support.

Art Therapy for Dementia Patients

Whether the activity involves painting or creating a collage, expression through the visual arts can vastly improve the quality of life for those with dementia and terminal illness. In fact, guided art activities are optimal in hospice, as they help rekindle a sense of self in those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia by reconnecting them with long-term memories, according to MD EDge. Art therapy gives patients the opportunity to find meaning and gain closure by engaging in the concrete expression of personal accomplishments, special relationships, and cherished memories.

By engaging in the process of creating a piece about one’s life, the patient is harmonizing with the goals and principles of hospice. Those goals are all about staying connected, and having dignity and respect for patients’ choices. Such activities give patients back some element of control over their lives as they grapple with heavy psychological, physical, spiritual and social concerns.

Art therapy can also help patients cope with anxiety about impending death, encouraging meaningful reminiscence. This is important because it allows patients to take stock of their contributions to their families and society, as well as legacies they will be leaving behind — a process that comes at a critical time as they wonder whether they have accomplished anything worthwhile throughout their lives. It’s a reinforcement of their purpose in this world, if you will.

For people with dementia, art and other activities take on a different value. While art can offer an exceptional outlet for emotional release and social connection, it can also improve cognitive function by helping people tap into brain functions such as long-term memory systems, which are more intact than many may realize. Art has long been associated with the creative process and the emotional process; however, it has the added benefit of helping those with Alzheimer’s disease use their preserved cognitive skills. Many researchers will even go so far as to say that cognitive stimulation combined with medication is more effective than just medication on its own.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

To learn more about the activities we offer our home care and hospice care patients, contact us at 888-978-1306. We have a variety of programs aimed at helping both patients and their family members cope.