May 13, 2015

Alzheimer's & the Arts - Anne Basting, Gary Glazner, Sunil Iyengar, Dr. Kate de Medeiros

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This month, we were lucky to have four guests join us to help explain the power the arts can have for patients and caregivers coping with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s:

Sunil Iyengar, Director, Office of Research & Analysis at The National Endowment for the Arts
Gary Glazner, Executive Director of the Alzheimer's Poetry Project
Anne Basting, Founder and President of the TimeSlips Creative Storytelling Project
Dr. Kate de Medeiros, Robert H. and Nancy J. Blayney Professor Gerontology at Miami University


Here are some key takeaways:

Gary Glazner began the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project in 2003 because he saw how classic poems are able to help individuals with dementia reengage. He uses props, touch therapy, and a call and response technique along with open-ended questions. While participating will not change the course of Alzheimer’s, he sees participants have increased laughter, verbalize more memories and improve their social interactions.

Watch a performance of the group poem ‘Ocean’ with Gary Glazner

Storytelling is how we as humans connect, but the symptoms of Alzheimer’s make it difficult to keep a story in a linear track. Anne Basting explained how this can cause individuals to doubt their capacity to understand who they are and how they communicate with others. Creative storytelling provides an outlet for Alzheimer’s patients to express themselves in whatever way they can, using a picture as a prompt and asking open-ended questions. She shows that we value the person with dementia by affirming all responses and sharing the story that was created with others.

Watch TimeSlips in action

Dr. Kate de Medeiros explained that programs such as Alzheimer’s Poetry Project and TimeSlips can increase interest, decrease boredom, stimulate thought, and perhaps decrease behavioral disturbances. There is a need to rethink research into arts programs and how the medical community determines a successful intervention. It is difficult to do a randomized control trial but there are other ways to have rigorous research that is appropriate to what is being measured. We can start by spreading the word and educating providers and caregivers about the different kinds of programs available.

Many thanks to The National Endowment for the Arts and its Interagency Task Force on the Arts and Human Development for partnering with USAgainstAlzheimer’s for this month’s Alzheimer’s Talks.