The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dementia and Creativity

For the last six weeks, the Aspen Ridge Memory Care Center in Bend OR, ( has been focusing on resident creativity, hoping to increase quality of life, thus decreasing behavior symptoms and the need for drugs. Director Terrye Alexander said, “We replaced activities like Bingo, which were meaningless to our residents, with creative activities." She showed us beautiful paintings, thoughtful poems, and colorful sculptures—all done solely by residents. And not just art and poems--they also have a choir and a dance group.

“We build on past experiences," Terrye explained, pointing to a not-so-well manicured courtyard. "We leave the weeds out there for our our two master gardener residents to pull. Past housekeepers/housewives can set the tables in the dining room and fold laundry.” Past secretaries can sit at a desk in a small room, with an old fashioned typewriter and a phone, type up mailing labels and put them on envelopes. "It was really hard to find that typewriter, but it was worth it," Terry commented. The same small room becomes a counseor's office on occasion. Terrye told us, “One of our residents was a school counselor. When we have high schoolers come here to do public service, she sits here in her ‘office.’ We tell the teens they can go in and tell her anything they wouldn't want to tell their parents.”

Down the hall, in a room where some surprisingly alert residents were guessing the proverb or saying a staff person was trying to illustrate on a dry erase board. “She isn't even a very good artist, but we are amazed at how well they do.” Terrye and her staff also try to get the residents more active—in fun ways. “We had a beach party last week, with sand on the ground outside, and played volley ball.”

Already, Terrye says they can see a change in behavior. The residents are busier, more interested in life and more alert. “We are using fewer drugs and yet we have few behavior crises,” she said. “And with the addition of more physical activity, we’ve also seen more stability and less falling.”

Family caregivers of LBD loved ones can adapt many of Terrye’s ideas for home use. And don’t forget simple touching. Mike De Sousa, in his Column #34 ( reminds us that sometimes “we can forget that being creative is not always focused on the skills of the mind, but as much on our sensory connection with those close to us. As our loved ones get nearer the end, touch may be the most comforting type of creativity, transmitting a reassuring sense of connection and peace.


  1. thanks for coming back i need your help understand my husband sometimes thjs info was helpful

  2. Glad we could help. There's much more in our book, A Caregiver's Guide to Lewy Body Dementia. You can read about it, buy it on our website, Helen