Painting can be a relaxing activity that captures your person’s attention and keeps them focused. By keeping your person with dementia zeroed in on an activity, he/she is more likely to feel content, and behavioral concerns are less likely to appear. Recent research suggests that artistic activities may help individuals with dementia to express complex emotions, particularly when language ability fades. Art also provides intellectual stimulation for the person, which may help to keep cognitive powers sharp (although nothing can prevent dementia from progressing).
Furthermore, painting or (in this case) painting rocks is an activity that can be easily adjusted depending on the person’s remaining strengths and abilities. For instance, someone in the early stages of the disease may be able to execute a multi-step project over the course of a couple of sessions. The first session could consist of cleaning and sanding stones. The next session may involve painting a base color on a couple of rocks. The last session may include finer details (such as those seen in the ladybug picture).
Someone who is further progressed may do better with a shorter-term project with fewer steps, such as only painting rocks in solid colors or arranging (already painted) rocks in a decorative way. Even watching you paint or admiring your finished handiwork, might be pleasurable activities for someone in the later stages of the disease.
Materials you will need:
- Smooth rocks (either found outdoors or purchased from a craft store)
- Assorted acrylic paints
- Paint brushes (various types)
- Palette or mixing tray (e.g. paper plate, tin foil, styrofoam cup)
- As dementia progresses, the individual will need more supervision and guidance.
- Consider using simple patterns for your design. Or you could add in more intricate details yourself, if desired.
- Wear a painting smock or old set of clothing that is ok to get dirty.
- Check out library books (such as those by Lin Wellford) for inspiration and step-by-step instruction.
- Be alert to signs of frustration or boredom. Adjust the activity, so that it is a good match for the person based on their remaining strengths.
- If the activity goes awry or causes the person to become agitated, be prepared to stop.
- Your finished rocks can be used as decoration, such as on a countertop or in a garden. A functional use for painted rocks is to use them as garden markers for various plants/herbs (pictured above).