Dancer Hayley Beecher and musician Janet Wood have a real passion for working with people with dementia and their carers – using their artform to engage people, encouraging them to participate and contribute to their own creative experience.
We've worked in partnership with The Alzheimer’s Society and have run sessions at each of the monthly Dementia Cafés they provide in Doncaster.
Creative activities for people with dementia have a range of benefits. They allow people to:
- access a language that doesn’t always depend on words
- create tangible timelines and memories of the day
- reinforce their identity and how they are regarded by others
- be in control, have choices and make decisions
These sessions can significantly improve the physical health and mental wellbeing of all involved and improve personal relationships and broader relationships in the community.
Michaela Mahon, Dementia Support Manager for the Alzheimer’s Society says:
“The sessions are unique because they are interactive, stimulating and therapeutic. All members in the group are encouraged to contribute. Their contributions are valued by being used in the final song and movements. This builds individual confidence and helps other group members to see more about the person’s character, which encourages peer support.”
Creative Respite Together
The ‘Carers and Cared For’ project offered carers support by providing respite which was with as opposed to away from the person they are caring for.
We provided each pair with a shared and equal experience which encouraged them to see themselves as individuals while at the same time re-evaluating their relationship with each other. Together they can access a language that doesn’t always depend on words, thereby increasing the communication and re-connecting them through positive, fun experiences!
“When we come here we sing our memories, write songs about our hopes for the future, dance our way through our frustrations, share our stories with others, and take back control of our lives.”
Creative activities were structured so carers had time to step back, offload, share experiences and see the person they care for in a new light. By structuring activities where the cared for are in control, have choices and make decisions it takes the pressure off the carer and lets them sit back and be led.
“After the session began I looked around and thought ‘this is a totally different group from when I walked in. It changed the energy of people, I saw different things, different emotions.”
We also shouldn’t underestimate the impact of taking part in an activity that has a very different pace and energy to what carers are used to, as well as being able to play, to experiment, be creative and lose your inhibitions.
“It’s a release from the drudgery of day by day things – I enjoy the company and feel at ease.”
As we worked with them, carers show high levels of engagement, making positive statements about their work and experience pride in their role as carer. We noticed significant shifts in sociability, attitude and confidence, including important changes in how partners relate to one another.
We understand the needs of carers and through our consistently strong relationship with the Community & Carers Development Team have built up a track record of working on support for carers, both with and without the person they care for.