Introduction

Words strain
Crack and sometimes break
Under the burden under the tension.
— T. S. Eliot

Unfortunately, medical science has not yet provided any effective long-term treatment for Alzheimer's disease. In the absence of a much-hoped-for miracle drug, it is our responsibility to find ways to enhance the lives of those stricken with the illness. Current major therapeutic approaches consist of practical and emotional support and of strategies that help strengthen remaining capacities. Art therapy, a relatively new resource, sets out to do exactly these things, offering an additional means to bolster the humanity of the Alzheimer's patient. Art therapy proves to be a powerful medium because it bypasses the dominant verbal aspects of brain function. The work is based on the assumption that in spite of deterioration and advancing limitations, the dementia patient is nevertheless a person with an interior subjective world. The afflicted person, overwhelmed by an inability to articulate, can give voice to this inner world through the use of art materials. In providing that person with the symbolic language of art, an alternative channel for communication is opened. This is a vital gift when words have lost their meaning.

Art therapists working with dementia sufferers are just at the beginning of a struggle for acknowledgment and legitimacy as they introduce their skills into new territories. Hopefully, this book will bring art therapy into the care system, provide a channel through which therapists can increase their communication with patients, and bring new information and a measure of understanding to caregivers and loved ones who are increasingly cut off from Alzheimer's sufferers because of the dementia.

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