Visual Changes, Art Therapy & Dementia

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Visual Changes, Art Therapy & Dementia

Kindly written by Erica Curcio 

Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Art Therapist, Boston MA

Erica Curcio

Today we are talking VISION 

Over our lifetimes, our vision WILL change. For some, it might be harder to see things, leading to an eventual desire to purchase glasses.  BUT did you know that as you age something else happens that is not always noticeable…. 

Our peripheral vision slowly starts to lessen.  We start to see less on our right and left sides, when looking straight ahead.  You know that blindspot when driving a car…it gets bigger! The change is very subtle over time, leading us to not really notice as it happens. This can be one of the reasons Adults in their 80s and 90s might be asked to stop driving.  

Throw a disease of the brain like Alzheimer’s into the mix and those peripherals can fade even faster. This creates what some call tunnel vision.

Are you interested in what this might be like?  Try this – 

Take your hands and place them like you are holding binoculars in front of you. Can you see left and right? It should be minimal.

Now pretend those binoculars are gone, slowly bring your hands in more to create a tight circular shape around your eyes. At this point you should only be able to look forward. You should not be able to see what is above, below, right or left of you.  

This is what everyday can look like for someone living with a progressive dementia. 

As caregivers, we can’t fix this, BUT we can help make someone’s life easier with this condition. As an Art Therapist I am here to offer you four creative engagement techniques that will help YOU and YOUR LOVED ONE feel more successful.

  1. When offering art supplies to your loved one, make sure they can see the supplies by first getting eye contact and then handing to them.  This will integrate a tactile experience before you even begin.  Allow them to feel the object and their eyes will immediately go to their hands and what they are holding.  At that point you’ve integrated several sensory experiences for that person, creating connections in the brain and to the supplies.
  2. Offer one thing at time.  Less is more.  Too many items in front of someone can cause distractions and may have them unengaged in the activity you are trying to get them involved in
  3. Be sure to place supplies where their eyes will go.  Remember if the person is looking straight ahead they won’t know that you’ve placed items below because the tunnel vision has them looking only in one centering direction.  Hint – this also applies to meal time.  Have you ever wondered why your loved one didn’t react when you put food in front of them? Chances are they didn’t see the food.
  4. Ask them questions about what THEY see.  How THEY are viewing the world and experiences.  It might be eye opening to hear from their perspective.  You will also receive clues about how severe their vision impairments are.

As always to remember, everyone ages differently. Everyone’s experience living with dementia is DIFFERENT. Some suggestions may apply to your loved one and not someone else’s.  These are tips and tricks for trying and if they don’t work, maybe they don’t apply to your loved one’s condition.

Check our our video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8TutA4v5TI&feature=youtu.be

For more tips, tricks and strategies for creative aging follow along @thetravelingarttherapist on Instagram and Facebook. Please let me know if you tried these suggestions and what the outcomes were! 

A MASSIVE THANK YOU TO ERICA FOR WRITING THIS PIECE!

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