• Expressing feeling through art: Therapy for people living with dementia

    Expressing feeling through art: Therapy for people living with dementia

    On 18 October, participants of Resthaven’s ‘Staying at Home in Regional South Australia’ program enjoyed an afternoon art therapy session during their retreat.

    Based at a beautiful residence in Stirling, against the backdrop of the Adelaide Hills, it was the perfect environment to get creativity flowing with a painting session.

    Program facilitator and Dementia Educator, Gillian Schulze, explains, ‘As part of the retreat, people living with dementia and their carer experience quality respite care, wellbeing and activities with targeted support.’

    Gillian, who also holds a Diploma in Art Therapy, says ‘The benefits of art therapy are fascinating.’

    ‘In general, art projects are a fun, relaxing way for people of all ages to express their creativity, but it’s a particularly valuable activity for this cohort.’

    ‘Art therapy positively contributes to a carer’s mental health by reducing stress and anxiety, and increasing social support. This further enhances carers’ wellbeing and their relationship with their loved one.’

    ‘For those living with dementia, art creates an outlet for self-expression and communication, and creates a sense of accomplishment and purpose.’

    Art therapy session at Resthaven’s ‘Staying at Home in Regional South Australia’ program retreat.
    The group enjoying art therapy

    Participant, Cherie-Lee, who is the primary carer of her father, Mr Bill Kable, says ‘I have never participated in art therapy before—it is so cathartic!’

    ‘The painting was a relaxing activity, and I could really concentrate on how I was feeling. I felt so invigorated afterwards,’ she says.

    Mr Clive Lewis and his wife, Trish, also enjoyed dabbling in the activity.

    Trish, who is the primary carer of Mr Lewis, says, ‘For me, this has been very calming, and I could really tune in to my emotions. The colours I used represent a lot of different feelings.’

    Whilst the activity is beneficial for exploring inner emotions, Gillian says it is also an excellent way for participants to brainstorm about how they feel about the retreat in general.

    She explains, ‘This activity is so valuable to learn how the participants feel about the retreat; for example, what has been the most helpful or what they have enjoyed.’

    ‘The best thing with art therapy is that there’s no right or wrong — it’s just about expressing how you feel!’

    ‘The activity encourages free-flowing conversation—it’s not forced—and people express more than they would if it was a direct face-to-face conversation.’

    ‘This type of feedback is invaluable, as we can then use it to offer practical support and advice, tailored to their individual needs.’

    The ‘Staying at Home in Regional South Australia’ program forms part of the Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. It aims to support older South Australians living with dementia to stay at home for as long as possible.

    In 2024, retreats will be held in the Limestone Coast, Riverland and other areas. Enquire now!

    (Pictured above [L-R]: Executive Manager Community Services, Mel Ottaway; Home Support Worker, Deb Blight; Mr Clive Lewis; Dementia Educator, Gillian Schulze; Trish Lewis; Home Support Worker, Jenny Hall; Cherie-Lee Lindsay; Tania Petroccia)