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Friday, 21 May, 1999, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Art therapy for Alzheimer's
Art therapy
Art therapy helps Alzheimer's patients to express themselves
Art therapy can combat the depression often felt by people with Alzheimer's Disease, researchers have claimed.

A study in Brighton has shown that half of Alzheimer's Disease sufferers who took part showed a significant improvement in their symptoms by the end of the ten-week course.

It is thought that the therapy may act as a release for trapped emotions.

Art therapist Finlay McKinlay said patients taking part in the course thought it was rather strange at first, but they gradually started to make steady progress.

He said: "It is like psychotherapy or psychoanalysis, but it using art materials as a form of communication."

Significant impact

Dr Jennifer Rusted
Dr Jennifer Rusted says the scheme had real benefits
The course has been assessed by researchers at the University of Sussex and Goldsmith's College, London, who compared it with other types of therapy available.

Dr Jennifer Rusted, said art therapy had two significant effects on those who took part.

She said: "The first was that within a session they became much more relaxed, much more sociable.

"The second thing that we found was that their depression scores as rated by the people who worked with them decreased markedly over the ten weeks of the course."

The researchers say larger scale studies are needed before art therapy is introduced on a widescale basis.

Neil McArthur, of the Alzheimer's Disease Society, echoed that conclusion.

He said: "We would like to see a much larger programme being put into operation to back up the initial finding and then that art therapy became a regular part of activities offered to people attending day centres and day hospitals so that all can benefit from this"

Alzheimer's Disease is the most common form of senile dementia, affecting up to 10% of adults over 65 and 50% over 85.

It causes the brain's function to deteriorate slowly, destroying memory and eventually all other mental functions.

Researchers predict that the number of people who suffer from the disease in Britain could double to more than one million by the year 2025.

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