How using music and art therapy can aid people with dementia

It can be very challenging for a person with dementia to communicate their feelings, and as the illness progresses it becomes more and more difficult. Their frustration often builds without a way to express themselves, which is why so many care facilities are looking to other ways to help them.

Holistic approaches, such as art therapy and musical activities, have become increasingly popular in dementia care facilities. Studies have shown that they can play an important role in the treatment of dementia, allow for self-expression, as well as provide for meaningful engagement with others.

At Livewell Villages we provide over 30 different stimulating activities designed to meet the individual needs of our residents, these include music and crafts, sports, board games, and outings, to both stimulate and engage with our residents.

Art and music do not need to rely on words or recalling information, making them the ideal medium of which people with dementia can effectively communicate.


There are numerous studies that show that music is effective at reducing agitation and working through challenging behaviour. It has also been proven to boost self-confidence and encourage participation, something which can be hard to do non-verbally. Singing and music groups are great ways to connect with a number of people without having to use verbal communication.

Here are some tips when choosing music:

  • Find out what music is familiar or enjoyable to the person, or even let them choose.
  • Music can set the mood, so if you are looking to reduce anxiety in that person – select music that is calming.
  • Radio or YouTube sources of music don’t allow for an uninterrupted experience, which can cause the person to become confused. Rather opt for a downloaded song or CD.
  • Boost the energy in the room by encouraging participation via clapping to the beat or dancing.
  • Sensory overload can be very intimidating, so make sure the music is not too loud, or the group too big, and that there aren’t any other competing noises.

Art Therapy

Art therapy is incredibly relaxing for anyone, but for people with dementia it means so much more. Not only does it help to calm them, but it is also another opportunity for self-expression. Every brush stroke or colour choice shows their feelings even if they can’t find the words anymore. It helps to alleviate boredom and restore their dignity, as it allows them to feel a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Tips for planning an art activity:

  • Bring conversation into the activity, encourage discussion around their art to boost engagement.
  • Offer help along the way, but try not to take over – it’s about the process and not the end result.
  • Choose projects that are appropriate, not patronising or childlike.
  • Clear a good amount of time for this project so that they never feel rushed, or allow the project to span over more than one session (especially if they are enjoying it).
  • Lastly, keep it safe by avoiding toxic substances and sharp tools. Otherwise have fun with it!

In the spirit of art and its role here at Livewell Villages, we’d like to encourage you to find out more about our Remembering You art campaign. Through this campaign, we seek to inspire people to reflect on the essence of memory. Artists are invited to evoke memories of a loved one who may be affected by dementia and find a way of preserving the memory of the person that is distinct from the progressive effects of their condition. Find our more about this heart-warming campaign:  

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Arrive as family, live with dignity and purpose.

Since 2011, the Livewell Group has been at the forefront of dementia and Alzheimer’s care in South Africa. We are motivated by a personal and heartfelt concern for the dignity and care of our elders and our efforts continue to be encouraged by the strong market need for specialised individual care.

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