Date of Publication

Spring 1-17-2018


Introduction. Studies have shown art intervention to be an effective therapy for patients with memory impairments, leading to overall positive behaviors, increased quality of life and decreased caregiver burden. We conducted a preliminary study to evaluate and compare the effect of participation in weekly art appreciation and painting sessions on the behavior of memory impaired residents in an assisted living facility.

Methods. Residents’ behaviors were observed during art appreciation and active painting sessions over a six-week period. Each session consisted of either viewing and discussing artwork or actively painting in the style of the artist discussed. Positive and negative behaviors were recorded and tallied throughout the sessions. Over the course of 12 sessions, the 7 observers made a total of 1957 observations of a variable patient population. The total number of both positive and negative behaviors was compared between activities, over time within sessions, as well as over the six weeks. Each session was percent normalized to the time interval with the highest occurrence of select behaviors.

Results. Upward trends for positive and negative behaviors were noticed in ap- preciation and painting sessions respectively. The negative to positive engagements ratios for each painting session showed an increase in negative behaviors. Disengagement increased as the appreciation sessions progressed and decreased as painting sessions progressed. Overall, positive engagement increased in both appreciation and painting sessions.

Conclusions. Despite several confounding variables encountered in this study, we demonstrated art appreciation and active painting to be a viable non- pharmacological therapeutic approach for individuals with memory impairments.


Judith Christensen, UVM Larner College of Medicine

Ellen Meagher, Converse Home, Burlington, VT


Converse Home, Burlington, VT


Dementias, Including Alzheimer's Disease, Older Adults

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 License

Engagement and Disengagement in Art Interventions with Memory Impairment