The Transformative Power of Art

Beach Huts

by Emma Harris

For the average person, being given the opportunity to create and express themselves might inspire a sense of freedom and productivity; it might also be something we take for granted. For a person struggling with dementia, perhaps with weakening senses or an inclination to recede into themselves, the power of art and creativity can be transformative to their quality of life.

Worldwide, people are beginning to understand the importance of creativity for those with dementia. In 2015, the Alzheimer’s Society produced a guide to encourage arts venues to become more dementia-friendly, offering extensive advice on how to do so. Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair of Arts Council England, says “There are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and, for many of them, the arts will be fundamental to enabling them to live well with their condition”.

James, Creative Minds
James, founder of Creative Minds, leading an art session.

James Cropper is someone who has grabbed this idea by the horns. James was caring for an older adult with learning disabilities when he discovered the power of arts and crafts.

“He just came alive,” says James after observing this individual’s love to create.

Inspired by how stimulating and energising art could be, Creative Minds was soon formed. Now, James and his community of experienced artists enhance the lives of thousands of people in care homes, placing emphasis on experimentation and allowing them the time and materials to create their own pieces of art work. And the benefit is not just emotional; as well as boosting self-esteem, James explains how creativity increases cognitive stimulation, improves dexterity and motor skills, and reduces stress and anxiety. Family members of residents have been impressed with the art sessions and notice a profound impact on the residents. Jane, a resident’s daughter, comments, “I believe these sessions provide far more to the individual than just an afternoon of fun”.

Creative Minds continue to develop their art sessions and have started encouraging the interaction of multiple generations by inviting primary school children to join in with art sessions at care homes. They aim to make art accessible to people of all ages and abilities, bringing their sessions to more and more locations.

Engage & Create, founded by Rachel Mortimer, uses art in a slightly different way. Using an iPad to display famous pieces of art, they facilitate discussions of art in care homes and encourage conversation amongst people with dementia. Rachel says that it is fascinating how people with dementia notice things in art that she has not seen before. Like James, she has observed first-hand how interaction with art can draw people out from their shells and improve well-being, not just during the discussions, but well beyond them.

In 2007, The MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York) set up an initiative to make art more accessible to people with Alzheimer’s, expanding their education programmes to assist health and art professionals in making art accessible to them. Today, they continue to encourage people living with dementia interaction with art through programmes (see link below).  Whilst a trip to New York to participate in one of MoMA’s dementia programmes may be a little tricky, Engage & Create bring discussions directly to the care home.

And they don’t stop there; Rachel’s ‘Ignite Programme’ offers a tailored training package to care home staff so that they themselves can lead discussions about art work, supported along the way by the Engage & Create team. An occupational therapist told the team, “that was one of the best training sessions I’ve ever had … it’ll change the way I work with people with a diagnosis of dementia forever.”

If you want still more proof of the power of art, take a look at this recent study on dementia and creativity, ‘Dementia and Imagination’. The project was studying how visual arts can impact people with dementia. As the research only ended in December 2016, full findings are yet to be published but the initial reactions are undeniably positive. Participants commented on the soothing environment and the sense of achievement they felt; findings also indicated that family members and carers were affected positively as the art sessions allowed them to get to know the residents better through their creations.

All of these ventures focus on what people living with dementia can do rather than what they can’t do. In turn, the people living with the condition learn to focus on these things as well, nurturing an environment of positivity, colour and creativity which has the power to significantly improve their well-being.

If you are aware of an organisation that should be included in our list of resources, please email the details to info@mycarematters.org.

Resources:

Creative Minds Offer practical art sessions across England

Engage & Create Offer art discussion sessions and training packages for staff, including The Engage & Create Ignite Programme

Creative Buddy is a social enterprise that provides mobile arts and crafts sessions for care/residential homes, day centres and community venues in Sussex.

Dementia and Imagination A recently completed scientific study on the benefit of art for individuals with dementia

Arts4Dementia  develops arts programmes to empower, re-energise and inspire people with early-stage dementia and carers through challenging artistic stimulation, to help them live better for longer in their own homes.

Equal Arts Offer training sessions for care staff and run projects encouraging creativity amongst people living with dementia

MoMA Information on how to make art accessible to people with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Society Dementia Friendly Arts report A guide for arts venues on how to become dementia-friendly

 

 

 

 

Two award-winning products… one fabulous offer

TNV Reminiscence 1950s

We are delighted to be partnering with Many Happy Returns to create the Twist-N-View Happy Memories Set for care homes and hospitals. We have adapted our Twist-N-View Display Care Chart so as to display and store a number of the award-winning Chatterbox Cards, and are now offering 6 Care Charts and a pack of 26 Chatterbox cards for just £77.60.

Not only does the Twist-N-View Happy Memories Set facilitate person-centred care by ensuring all those interacting with an individual are aware of their needs and preferences, but also provides the tools to encourage conversations and facilitate reminiscence sessions.

See more by clicking here..

 

Sight is precious

Jim took a lot of falls in 2012. His eyesight, dementia and arthritis were all conspiring against him. He’d wake up in the morning, forget he could not walk and think the lights had all been turned off.

We are introduced to Jim in a video produced by scie, dealing with sensory loss (see link below). The staff in the Cumbrian care home where he lives have had to learn to be very patient, and use concise, effective communication.  They try to communicate with Jim in a quiet area, so background noise doesn’t distract and confuse him.

It seems nothing can be done about Jim’s blindness, but that is not the case for many of those living in care homes and trying to cope with impaired vision. Whilst many homes diligently arrange sight tests for their residents, there are probably many more that do not see the need.

There is generally thought to be a correlation between dementia and sight loss, so a certain shrugging of the shoulders is inevitable, but dementia is already confusing enough for the person living with it so if there is anything that can be done to help them maintain senses like eyesight and hearing, it should be done.  Regular sight tests are important – it is possible to have an eye examination at nearly all stages of dementia  – to diagnose cataracts, check prescriptions are up to date and to assess for other conditions, treatable or otherwise.

Even if nothing can be done to improve a person’s sight, it is important to assess the quality of their vision so that carers can take it into account in their behaviour towards and around that person.

Yet, in a survey in 2014 the College of Optometrists asked their members how frequently they carried out domiciliary eye examinations in people’s homes or care homes.  Just 10% said they did so regularly in people’s homes and this dropped further to 6% for regular care home visits.

Such low numbers are not down to cost. If you are over 60, or over 40 with a close relative who has been given a diagnosis of glaucoma you are entitled to free eye examinations (in Scotland they are free for everyone). And for those unable to visit an optician unaccompanied due to physical or mental disability they are entitled to a free eye test at home.

So why are the numbers so low? First of all, there is undoubtedly a sense that ‘it’s just the dementia’. What’s the point in finding out about a person’s eyesight because it’ll make no difference? Those with that opinion should read the story of how the life of Suzy Webster’s Mum has been transformed (and how a potentially traumatic experience can be made so much more pleasant by involving the family) – see link below.

Research done by the College of Optometrists suggests that it is often the families who are not convinced of the benefits of an intervention, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that many professionals feel the same.

This is borne out by Thomas Pocklington Trust’s report (link below) quoting the RNIB who estimate that over half of older residents in care homes have some form of sight losss, yet care home residents’ co-morbidities mean that eye care interventions are overlooked or thought unnecessary.

What’s to be done?

As with so much in this world it comes back to communication. Bust those myths about it making no difference. Make it known that everyone in a care home is entitled to a free NHS eye test at least every two years. Build awareness about the importance of regular eye tests and the difference it can make to the individual’s quality of life where improvements to their sight can be made. As Suzy Webster says of her Mum after her cataract operation: “She’s a different person. She’s really got her spark back… she’s walking steadier, her mood is happier and she’s interacting with us all better.”

A look into the future

Simply slip a small device over the in-built camera on your smartphone. Turn on the Peek app, hold the phone close to someone’s eye, click and forward the picture to a trained eye care specialist.  This is the technology of the future to detect signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and other issues like high blood pressure. Social enterprise Peekvision claim that 80% of blindness is avoidable, and tools like theirs can replace an eye exam at a fraction of the cost. They should be shipping in early 2016 and expect it to be transforming lives in remote corners of the world… there’s a few lives waiting to be transformed right here on their doorstep. http://www.peekvision.org/

Photo by sk on Unsplash

Resources

Scie has a section on Dementia and sensory loss in their Dementia Gateway

The Age Page: Interview with Suzy Webster

Thomas Pocklington Trust: Undetected sight loss in care home

Vision2020 The Right to Sight UK (Dementia and Sight Loss Interest Group) working to increase the knowledge and information available for people living with dementia and sight loss has a useful  factsheet

Thomas Pocklington Trust: Design for Dementia and Sight Loss

The College of Optometrists’ Guidance for Professional Practice has a section ‘Examining patients with dementia or other acquired cognitive impairment’.

 

 

 

Making time to share stories

Read our exclusive interview with George Coxon – Director/Owner of Classic Care Homes Ltd and Chair of the Mental Health Nursing Association (MHNA).

Here at Care Charts UK, we are always interested in hearing about new initiatives that are helping people who are living with dementia and as such, we were delighted to find out more about a new initiative set up by George Coxon. As George explains;

“We are part of the social care world where, if we live long enough, we will be the beneficiaries of entertaining, stimulating, fun and safe 24/7 care. Our lives remain important no matter what our age or circumstances and our precious moments must be shared – it’s these moments that make us who we are.”

We recently interviewed George about this initiative; ‘10-in-10’ and how it’s already proving very successful in enhancing people’s lives.

10-in-10 is a new initiative. What exactly does it involve?

There are multiple jobs to be done by anyone working in a care home, so time is of the essence. It’s extremely important in such a busy environment to add value to the lives of our residents. Keeping them safe is obviously of the upmost importance, but it’s also vital to ensure that they have a meaningful life and to do that, it’s essential that we know well (and are known well by) those we look after. The project draws on work done by the Alzheimer’s Society in their ‘This is Me’ initiative and by you with your Remember-I’m-Me Care Charts but builds upon them further to create an ongoing series of conversations between staff and residents.

The concept is quite simple – both parties share 10 year periods of their respective lives in just 10 minutes. This makes it fun, focused and perfect for maximising time-limited situations, while capturing things we didn’t previously know about each other from the key periods of our lives, like the schools we went to, the dreams we had when we were very young, our early life friends and our favourite toys or holidays.

What was the key thinking behind the 10-in-10 initiative?

The 10-in-10 project enables us to get to know those staying with us in a focused way and in just a short period of time. It enables us to learn more about each other and ensure that we have some good-humoured, quality time. By breaking it into manageable modules we can quickly learn about  each other, capturing themes and past life moments that can then be used to assist in some of the many and varied events, occasions and celebrations  we have at Pottles Court. The initiative is highly focused on making the lives of those staying with us better, but it’s also a fun way for our staff to get to learn more about them too.

What makes this initiative different or unique?

The initiative itself is an adaptation of other ideas that I’m sure have been trialled, but by branding it with a quirky headline it achieves more focus. 10-in-10 requires a two-way exchange based on shared lives, which we believe is more beneficial than the tendency to only have a one-way dialogue. The outcomes will be part of the work we are doing with our local research colleagues and the embedding of what we describe as ‘discovery conversations’ in our care plan compilation creates an active and ‘live’ part of the life stories and life history work often seen in care homes

What has been the greatest revelation from the 10-in-10 sessions you have held?

It’s still quite early days for the initiative but we have already seen some really useful learning taking place. It’s been really powerful to hear the detail of recollections from the first 10 years of residents’ lives and this has enabled staff to get a greater sense of who they are as a person and who they were when they were in their prime. Sadly these realities are often not acknowledged in later life when we become more dependent and less able to convey the confidence and spontaneity we enjoyed in our youth. Another really useful benefit has been witnessing the levels of ability people have to articulate their stories revealing verbal skills and recall capacity that might not have appeared as apparently previously. We have been very sensitive of course in not pressuring people to remember distant memories and as expected, some do very well while others struggle a little – this is a useful part of the ongoing assessment of not just those with cognitive impairment and dementia, but also those with normal memory decline associated with growing older.

Has the initiative been easy to implement?

It’s been very easy – as with all things in life, making time is the biggest challenge so having an in-house initiative that is popular with and talked about by staff, and that forms part of supervisions has given it real status in the home.  It’s about hearts and minds, enthusiasm and embedding ideas as part of a home culture – leadership and followership as we like to see it. Ideas are for success and trying things like the ‘shared lives 10-in-10’ project is but one of many of our projects and initiatives.

To find out more about the 10-in-10 initiative, or to read about the other projects undertaken by Pottles Court, please visit http://www.pottles.co.uk or check out their blog.

 

Getting to know each other

Carer's Chart

We’re always going on about the importance of needing to know about a resident’s needs and preferences, but what about your staff? Might they like to share what they like and dislike, and might they learn something from the exercise as well?

Encourage your staff to share what matters to them by completing one of these free charts. With everyone’s agreement, display them where other staff, residents and their families can see them, creating an opportunity to appreciate what is important to each other. Generate a sense of mutual respect throughout your community, and create opportunities for meaningful interaction between every member of that community.

If you are using our Care Charts for your residents you will see that we have used the same symbols* as those on the resident’s charts. This helps make the point that we are all similar in having needs and preferences, that whether we are a carer or someone being cared for, we all have things in our lives that can cause pleasure or distress.

Download as many copies of the Carers Chart A4 as you need, encourage your staff to share, and develop the relationship and mutual respect between staff and residents and their families. Indeed, it may be appropriate to invite family members to participate as well.

And if you’re not already using our Care Charts for your residents, give us a call now, on 01403 210485, or email enquiries@carechartsuk.co.uk for further information.

*If you are using Style 2 and would like a Carer’s Chart in the same style please send us a request via email to enquiries@carechartsuk.co.uk.

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