An editorial from reveals the profound impact that art therapy can have on struggling Alzheimer’s patients. The act of painting not only relieves stress, but helps the elderly communicate their emotions and needs at a time when verbal expression has become difficult.

The Story of a Painter

Hilda Gorenstein was once a wonderful painter. She even created murals at the 1933-1934 World’s Fair in Chicago. But as she grew older, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She found herself losing her memories, unable to focus when someone was speaking to her. One day, at the recommendation of the family doctor, Hilda’s daughter Berna suggested that her mother try painting again.

For a number of weeks, Hilda Gorenstein joined a small group of art students from the Art Institute of Chicago. Their influence awakened Hilda’s artistic sense, and she began to paint again. As a result, she felt happier and more focused than she had in many years.

The Hilgos Foundation

Hilda Gorenstein’s daughter, Berna Huebner, later founded a charitable organisation called the Hilgos Foundation, which enables elderly Alzheimer’s patients to work with young art students. Ten years after the foundation began its work, Huebner helped to direct a documentary about the benefits of art and creative therapy for patients with memory loss. The documentary became a success internationally and raised significant awareness for the role of art in geriatric mental health.

Supporting Studies

In 2016, a pair of researchers from Sweden conducted a study on the connection between Alzheimer’s and art. Emelie Miller and Boo Johansson, the study co-authors, revealed how these elderly patients can tap into the preserved creative areas of their brain as a mode of self-expression.

The International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry also published a paper about the impact of therapy on elderly people with dementia and memory loss. According to this particular study, various forms of creative therapy and recreation can “improve cognitive function, ability of daily living and behavioural and psychological symptoms of elders with dementia.”

Art and the Brain

For elderly patients, the loss of focus, understanding, memory, and communication can be excruciatingly painful emotionally. Frustration, depression, and anxiety often result, leading to poor mental health during the last stages of life. Through painting, crafts, sculpting, drawing, and other forms of art, these people can find an outlet for feelings and thoughts that they can no longer express with words. Even someone who has never pursued a creative profession or hobby can find solace in art during their last years.

Social Connections

The effects of art therapy go beyond the immediate stimulation of the brain’s visual and creative centres. Patients also benefit greatly from the social interaction that is typically involved. Therapist Judy Holstein says, “Through group work, people with dementia, who usually get very little out of social interactions, can add their personal contributions and work as a group to come up with something that could be displayed in a museum.” The stimulus provided by the activity works on multiple levels; and although it is not a cure, it can slow the condition’s progress.

Art Therapy in Singapore

At Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, we offer an excellent art therapy program in Singapore. Each of our patients is carefully evaluated first, and then our Singapore psychiatrists compose a treatment plan that may include counselling and medication along with various types of therapy. Do you believe that someone in your family might benefit from guided creative therapy? Call Adelphi today to set up a consultation.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source:, January 18, 2017