Creativity and
Maria S Parsons
What is communication?
How do we communicate?
How does dementia affect
Creative arts and dementia
‘My brain feels like a muddle’
Spoken word
Written word
Body & facial language
Braille & Talking mats
Non verbal communication
William Utermohlen:self portraits
Dementia: difficulties in communication
Early signs
• Repetitive speech
• Word finding
• Difficulty finding the correct word, particularly the
names of objects, places, people
• Substituting an incorrect word
• Later signs
• Difficulties in using language/ finding words
• Misinterpreting visual signals so that a man’s
daughter may be called ‘wife’
• Perseveration: repetition of word/phrase/sound
• Eventually all language may be lost
Communication in the brain
Different mental activities take place in different parts
of the brain. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans
can measure this activity. Chemicals tagged with a
tracer “light up” activated regions shown in red
and yellow show the brain at work
Common communication difficulties
Asking the same question/ telling the same story
Difficulty starting & continuing conversations
Trouble following a conversation especially when
a group of people are talking
Frustration in finding words
Trouble following sequenced information e.g.
television programmes
Starting to say something and then forgetting
the thread
Fabricating - saying things that are not true
‘A disorder of language affecting the content of speech
and how it is created and its understanding.’
Aphasia (also known as dysphasia) is commonly
accompanied by difficulties in:
Reading and writing.
With general conversation
Answering the telephone
Watching TV
Listening to the radio
Social & personal relationships can become very strained
Helpful responses
Take responsibility for bridging the
communication gap
Reduce obstacles to communication
Get attention -use the person’s preferred name
Avoid confrontation
Speak clearly and calmly
Face to face and use gestures
Summarise, wait and listen!
If helpful use objects/pictures
Clarify feelings and acknowledge difficulties
What else affects communication?
Internal environment : e.g. pain,
hunger, depression
Sensory environment: e.g. eyesight &
Behavioural environment: e.g. anxiety
Physical environment: e.g. noise
Environmental stressors
The physical environment of care
homes and busy hospital wards
is often noisy.
Creative arts
People with dementia respond well to music, film,
photography, drama, singing, dance, visual art,
ceramics, poetry
• Lights Up arts and memory club, Chipping Norton
• Modern Art Oxford: Lost In Time And Space –
intergenerational film making
• Coffee concerts at Jacqueline de Pre
• Oxford City and County Council: Reminiscence
groups, memory boxes & Dancing for Parkinson’s
with English National Ballet
• Age of Opportunity website
Communicating through art
The loss of verbal communication and making
ourselves understood is crucial for social
‘Social death proceeds actual death’
Responsibility for bridging the communication
gap is ours
Use every means possible to communicate
Promote creative arts as one of the ways of
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Communication and Dementia