Bringing Art to Life: the Impact of an Experiential Arts Program on Engagement in Persons Living with Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias
ABSTRACT Due to the growing numbers of persons living with dementia (PWD), the U.S. Department of Human Services created a National Plan to address dementia care. One of the goals of the National Plan was to optimize the quality of care. Adult day services often provide person-centered care to PWD to increase dignity, engagement, and creative expression. The Bringing Art to Life (BATL) program was created as an art therapy intervention in an adult day service. This thesis is an evaluation of the BATL program measured by engagement through ethnographic observations of art therapy sessions. Using a published and modified behavioral observation tool, engagements were quantified to test the hypothesis that engagements increase through sessions. While there was an increase in engagement by session, that increase was not significant. The second hypothesis that engagements are more prevalent in social interaction than art interaction was supported. A thematic analysis was conducted on the ethnographic field notes to test the hypothesis that social engagement themes were related to reminiscence and dignity and it uncovered five common themes in the field notes: family, social interaction, humor, art interaction, and advice. From both the quantitative engagement data and qualitative data, we hypothesized that social engagements would be related to reminiscence and dignity. The integration of the quantitative and qualitative data answered the overall research question that the BATL program was effective in engaging participants meaningfully both in activities and socially in intergenerational conversations revolving around reminiscence and personhood and in creative expression using art.