Is dementia a coping mechanism

From: Alzheimer Info 2/05

From deficit to creativity model: creative painting with dementia patients

Psychoanalysis understands aging as a lifelong development process that persists even with a mental illness such as Alzheimer's. Altered mechanisms for coping with loss and grief do not exclude dementia patients from the therapies, but require therapists to adopt an approach that is adapted to the disease. In art therapy, this theoretical model takes on a practical dimension.

How does art therapy work and what does it do?

Art therapy establishes communication between patient and therapist via the medium of image or design. In a group or individually and on the basis of mutual trust and appreciation, people who not infrequently picked up a brush in their school days go on a journey to the land of colors and shapes. They rediscover themselves, they learn new things. The focus is on the creative process and thus on people's encounters with themselves and with others. In painting and design, new possibilities of expression arise.

Creative painting - relaxes, motivates, strengthens and improves cognitive skills

Art therapy reaches dementia patients on an emotional level. She works on the non-verbal level with the medium of the image as a "transitional object". She has many tools to calm and motivate dementia sufferers and to discover resources. The self-confidence of the sick is strengthened. In this way, art therapy prevents people from entering the "vegetating" phase. Their works make patients feel useful and valuable. You can express yourself with your means and be creative until the end.

Art therapy should be offered in every retirement and nursing home as well as in rehabilitation facilities. The experiences in self-preservation therapy (SET) in the Alzheimer's therapy center of the Neurological Clinic Bad Aibling confirm this impressively. SET is a comprehensive concept that was developed by Barbara Romero (see literature tips). It also includes working with relatives who accompany the sick. Art therapy, psychological and medical discussions individually and in groups as well as relaxation techniques are also offered for them. The cost of the measure can be reimbursed by the health insurance company.

Elisabeth Seidel
APAKT - Working Group on Psychoanalytic Art Therapy


Literature tips:

  • Bau, H .: Treatment Concepts in Analytical Psychology. In: Radebold, H./Hirsch, R.D. (Ed.): Aging and Psychotherapy. Bern, Huber, 1994, 55-62
  • Ganß, M., Linde, M. (Ed.): Art therapy with people with dementia. Documentation of the symposium "Art therapy in the elderly - artistic work with dementia patients". Frankfurt, Mabuse, 2004
  • Menzen, K.H .: Art therapy with age-confused people. Munich, Reinhart, 2004
  • Radebold, H .: Treatment Concepts in Psychoanalysis. In: Radebold, H./Hirsch, R.D. (Ed.): Aging and Psychotherapy. Bern, Huber, 1994, 43--54
  • Romero, B., Wenz, M .: Concept and effectiveness of a treatment program for dementia patients and their relatives, results from the Alzheimer's therapy center Bad Aibling. Gerontol Geriat magazine, 2002, 35, 118 - 128