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

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."

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

Carol Bradley Bursack
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Carol Bradley Bursack

Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. This experience provided her with her foundation upon which she built her reputation as a columnist, author, blogger, and consultant. Carol is as passionate about supporting caregivers work through the diverse challenges in their often confusing role as she is about preserving the dignity of the person needing care. Find out much more about Carol at