Shaping the Future of the Arts and Dementia: event report

The event facilitators
Professors Dawn Brooker (L) and Tracey Williamson (R) with TAnDem PhD students Becky Dowson, Ruby Swift and Karen Gray at the roundtable event

Just before Christmas 2019, we reported on the roundtable event The Arts and Dementia: Shaping the Future, held at The Hive Community Library in Worcester. The day included a lively programme of presentations and discussion; sharing research from the TAnDem Doctoral Training Centre, and information on relevant courses offered by the University of Worcester, including the Postgraduate Certificate in Dementia Studies. Through discussion with attendees active in the arts, care, research, and education, the event sought understanding of how the TAnDem (The Arts and Dementia) research could impact on practice, education, and training in these sectors.

Analysis of the presentations and discussion notes taken during the event indicated three areas of need for arts and dementia practice and recommendations for taking the work of TAnDem forward in meeting these needs. The TAnDem PhD students have produced a report that discusses the roundtable event and details the identified needs and recommendations for arts and dementia practice.

PhD student
TAnDem PhD student Becky Dowson presenting her research findings

The first of the needs identified in the report is to build understandings around the practicalities and complexities of integrating the arts into care practice and within dementia contexts. According to the report, the value of arts and creative activities is reduced when they are considered an add-on in care homes, rather than being integrated. Experiencing these activities can be enjoyable for care staff, and their role can be equally important to that of the artist, although different. Unfortunately, there can also be many barriers to providing arts activities in care homes and to care staff involvement in them. These barriers include cost, low numbers attending, staff shortages, and other practicalities.

The second need identified is practical training and educational support to build knowledge of arts and creativity for people with dementia, dementia, and evaluative skills. The report explains that change within a care setting can be enabled through training for care staff. The benefits of formal training such as a BA/BSc or Masters can be unclear, and are less likely to be taken up than more informal training. Changes to the culture in a care setting, and schedules that are less task-oriented can promote work-based learning, but to really embed the changes training can offer sustainably requires management support. Time and resources for care staff training are limited and this needs to be recognised by training provision. Event attendees acknowledged the potential for artists to mentor care staff as a possible way forward.

The need for training and support to build knowledge of evaluative skills became evident through discussion of evaluating arts in dementia contexts. Attendees recognised the potential for artists and carers to contribute to evaluation, and for training in evaluative and critical thinking to be of benefit to arts and creative practitioners. Attendees also suggested that the focus of evaluation can be too narrow and that seeking evidence for continued funding may result in the agendas of commissioners or funders steering evaluation.

Group discussion
Discussion at the roundtable event, facilitated by Professor Tracey Williamson

The third and final need the report identifies, is provision that enables connection, collaboration and sharing of resources. It was felt by attendees that practitioners across different artistic disciplines could learn a lot from one another and that local networks were important to this group to support those feeling isolated. There was also a wish to connect with others more generally who worked in various roles, and to promote arts and dementia practice more widely in health and care provision.

Attendee sharing details on a notice board
Roundtable event attendee Diane Amans making connections

The event report concludes with a list of recommendations for the TAnDem legacy to contribute towards shaping the future of arts and dementia. These recommendations highlight potential actions for the University of Worcester to further contribute to the development of the arts and dementia through:

  • The integration of arts and creative activities into the Association for Dementia Studies Education Programmes and wider education offerings at the university including pre- and post-registration programmes relating to person-centred dementia care.
  • The integration of arts and dementia mentoring and placements for students into relevant University of Worcester courses.
  • The Association for Dementia Studies seeking opportunities for research and consultancy for care home group leaders and care home managers to support individual care settings to successfully integrate arts and creative practice.
  • Consideration of applications for further PhDs in arts and dementia related subjects.
  • Exploration of an arts and dementia module to sit within our existing Level 7 Distance learning programmes (Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Award in Person-Centred Dementia Studies) delivered totally online.

TAnDem students are now looking at ways these recommendations might be taken forward. By translating the research into practice, the legacy of TAnDem holds the potential to make a practical difference to the lives of people with dementia. You can keep up to date with their progress through the TAnDem webpage and Twitter feed.

Attendee networking at the roundtable event

You can find the roundtable report online. A summary report is also available.

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s