Last Autumn, it was my pleasure to research and evaluate the contribution that structured Art & Reminiscence activity can provide to the daily life and care of dementia patients in residential homes.
The full report can be downloaded here: Arts and Reminiscence in Wychavon Care Homes report 2016-02-15
Commissioned by Museums Worcestershire and Wychavon District Council Arts Development Officer, the creative and reminiscence activities took place over 5 weeks in 6 different residential care homes across the Wychavon area. The activity was intended as a pilot – although both organisations have carried out one-off activities in care homes over the last few years, this was their first concerted attempt at providing more in-depth and structured activity over a period of weeks.
The work was very challenging, given the participants’ varied capacity to take part. In some homes, the groups sizes were comparatively small (up to 6 participants) making it easier for the facilitators to focus on each individual and encourage them to take part. In other homes, large group sizes or the profound state of some participants’ dementia made it far more difficult to make a meaningful connection. However, as the sessions ran over a series of weeks, the facilitators were able both to build a relationship with the more able participants, and to make slow roads toward connection with the more profoundly disabled residents.
Both facilitators spoke of the work as being emotionally laborious, but also of the rewards they felt they had received when a silent participant suddenly smiled in recognition, or reached for a handshake before leaving.
The evaluation methodology is one that I used in 2013 on the Memories in the Making work for Wolverhampton Art Gallery, and is based upon the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (WEMBWS) and Dementia Mapping techniques. This Worcestershire project enabled me to test the methodology further and to continue to build upon my experience and knowledge in this rewarding field.