Can coloring help with Alzheimer’s?
As adult coloring books have become a popular relaxation technique, they are taking on a new purpose; the first coloring book for people with Alzheimer’s was recently released.
“Color Your Mind,” created by NBC special news anchor Maria Shriver, was made for a calming and guided activity that establishes connections between Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers. The book also allows patients an opportunity for self-expression and engagement.
Shriver was motivated by the idea from her experience with her father, Sargent Shriver, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2003 and passed away in 2011. Shriver was in search of activities that made her feel closer to her father.
There are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. By 2050, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that number will rise to 16 million.
As Alzheimer’s advances through the brain, it leads to increasingly severe symptoms, including unfounded suspicions about family, friends and professional caregivers. This can be difficult as approximately 15.9 million caregivers to people living with Alzheimer’s are family and friends.
“Like most dementias, Alzheimer’s often starts years before a diagnosis, so connections to individuals, activities and short-term memory problems may start slowly and subtly before any real concerns arise,” says Sue Durkin, advanced practice nurse for geriatrics at Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill.
35 percent of Alzheimer’s caregivers or other types of dementia report that their own health has gotten worse due to care responsibilities.
“Caregivers of patients with dementia often have greater emotional and physical decline compared to those who care for individuals with other chronic conditions. The lack of understanding of the disease process, financial constraints from long-term caregiving, embarrassment and fear of the unknown often lead to isolation and depression among caregivers,” says Durkin.
However, the arts can create a sense of accomplishment and purpose to a person with Alzheimer’s as well as for caregivers.
“As with any activity, coloring books may be useful one day but not the next depending on the varied state of the mind of the individual,” Durkin says. “Utilizing a variation of interactive formats — artwork, singing, dancing, interaction with the environment and exercise — are useful to support both emotional and physical well-being. These interventions are designed to engage the individual in their own life – living it as best as they can – while they navigate the long disease process.”
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