Arts Improve Quality of life for Stroke Survivors and People with Alzheimer's

Caregiver, patient expert

Research continues to show that the arts enhance quality of life for people who have health problems, including Alzheimer's disease and strokes. New research, presented at the  12th  Annual Spring Meeting on Cardiovascular Nursing, in Copenhagen, Denmark, reported on the importance of the arts, stating:

"Patients who appreciated music, painting and theatre recovered better from their stroke than patients who did not"Patients interested in art had better general health, found it easier to walk, and had more energy. They were also happier, less anxious or depressed, and felt calmer. They had better memory and were superior communicators (speaking with other people, understanding what people said, naming people and objects correctly)."

An article about the study on  Eurekalert  also reports that, "" researchers have shown that listening to" music directly stimulates a feeling a pleasure by releasing dopamine in the brain"These results shed light on the importance of lifelong exposure to art for improving the recovery process after a stroke. Introducing art into nursing care after stroke could help improve stroke survivors' quality of life."

Theater has also been used as a type of therapy for people with Alzheimer's disease.  NPR  reported on an outreach program at the Lookingglass Theater in Chicago that offers people with Alzheimer's the chance to take part in improv theater. With this type of theater, people are able to live in the moment, which is natural to someone with Alzheimer's. There was no struggle to remember the past or determine what to do in the future. According to the article, most of the participants leave the theater with a refreshed feeling of accomplishment.

Organizations specializing in all types of art for people with dementia or stroke are teaching facilities and individuals practical ways to apply the fine arts in practicing medicine.  Creativity Matters, the  National Center for Creative Aging  and  Arts for the Aging  are three such organizations.

It's not surprising to me that studies show people benefit from the arts even if they don't have full cognitive engagement. Music, art, literature and drama can touch people's hearts on a cellular level, helping them live the fullest life they can. Nearly any of us could use a little more of that kind of "therapy."

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European Society of Cardiology (2012, March 16). Art improves stroke survivors' quality of life. Retrieved from

Hill, J., (2011 August 15) Improv For Alzheimer's: 'A Sense Of Accomplishment'. NPR. Retrieved from