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P10. Art and dementia

Detailed Programme, abstracts and presentations

P10. Art and dementia (Friday, 5 October, 16.00-17.30, Europa 4)

P10.1. Art – Here and Now: An Art-Therapy Project in an Alzheimer Day Centre

Luisa Bartorelli, Silvia Ragni, Loredana Alicino, Stephanie Levi

Introduction: The Alzheimer Day Center of the Rome Foundation has experimented successfully with non-pharmacological strategies for many years, including activities in the artistic field. This art project offers to develop creative skills which are still preserved in the persons with dementia but which are not usually stimulated. The project introduces activities in graphic and pictorial art, ending with an exhibition of the works.

Purpose: The aim is to encourage expression and creativity in people with mild to moderate dementia through simple art techniques, under the guidance of an art-therapist, with the eventual goal of evaluating the benefits of this intervention. Specific objectives include: stimulating multi-sensory processes through art, promoting communication through a non-verbal activity, enhancing expressive capabilities not used regularly, restoring dignity and self-worth and finally providing involvement and training to the team of people working in the Day Center.

Material and method: The project is designed for 24 persons with dementia who attend the Day Centre, divided into two groups. The persons meet three times a week over a 3 month period. Each meeting, lasting 1½ hours, is led by an art-therapist with the assistance of the Day Centre health workers and is supervised by the psychologist. The project is divided into a series of 4 art techniques that do not use brushes or pencils in the traditional sense but have a strong casual element in the final result.  Using these 4 techniques, the participants can complete a work of art quickly and with mastery, using simple gestures, creating aesthetically sophisticated compositions. The 4 techniques are as follows:

  • Suminagashi – (ink-floating) A Japanese technique of marbling paper and fabric.
  • Collage Composition of different materials such as paper, cloth, plastic, metal.
  • Glue & Flour Decoration of paper and fabric with a glue and flour mix.
  • Monotype Engraving on a plate and printing

After each art session, the psychologist and the art-therapist share the completed art pieces with the group, asking each person to recognize their own work, add a title and share their emotions and feelings. All meetings are videotaped and a survey form about each person’s participation and motivation is compiled. Finally, the art works are exhibited and a catalogue of all the works is printed up and given to all family members.

Results and conclusions: Analysis of the observation data shows that there are positive results in the level of attention, participation and autobiographical memory.  In fact, the use of arts in the treatment of degenerative diseases is becoming a very topical issue. Supported by studies in neuroscience, it is now evident that stimulating creativity and expression can activate brain circuits which have been damaged. 

P10.2. “I’d rather have music”: Impacts of music for people with dementia approaching the end of life and their carers

Claire Garabedian

Music can access  parts of the brain that remain unaffected by dementia; therefore providing the possibility of communication where other avenues have become greatly lessened, thus  promoting better quality of life and perhaps more meaningful engagement with others (Cuddy and Duffin 2005). As the lifespan of people in developed countries continues to expand, the demand for non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical ways of providing care and support for people who have dementia and who are very frail is also increasing. However, this important population remains relatively under-researched due to complex ethical and communication issues involved. This paper reports  findings from  fieldwork conducted at five care/nursing homes in Scotland as part of a PhD exploring the potential effects of live and recorded self-chosen music on people with dementia who are very frail and their carers. Based on the realist evaluation model (Pawson & Tilley 1997), this paper discusses what worked for whom and in what circumstances. Primary themes of engagement, loss, and resilience that emerged from analysis of the data are examined; merits and limitations of chosen fieldwork methods (e.g. video observation, interviews, rating scales, biomedical measurements) and analytical strategies are also examined, providing suggestions for future related research.

P10.3. The Arts as a vehicle for social citizenship for people with dementia

Lenore de la Perrelle

There has been a significant broadening of thinking in dementia care, from the essential concepts of person hood developed by Tom Kitwood to recent debates about citizenship rights for people with dementia. While these have produced enlightened approaches to policy in Europe, USA and Australia, the challenge remains to put them into practice. So much of dementia care practice remains focused on a primarily therapeutic or medical approach. While there are many benefits to music therapy, arts therapy, sensory therapy and social activity groups for people with dementia, the focus of these programs remains on treating the disease or diverting the person from behavioural symptoms. A social citizenship approach challenges us to see beyond the disability to see the person as an active citizen, recognizing the various ways the person has status, context and influence in their community. We need to broaden our care responses beyond seeing the individual as a passive care recipient to recognizing a person with dementia as an active citizen, with rights to access the various social, political and cultural elements of their society.

The arts provide us with a vehicle for social inclusion and access to citizenship for people with dementia. Many art forms are accessible for those who have little or no experience. For those with skills in the arts, community arts practice allows the opportunity to retain their status as artists and to contribute to community groups. The challenge to practice is to create opportunities for people with dementia to be included in the arts in a way that recognizes the impact of cognitive decline and still respects a person’s status as a citizen.

 This presentation draws on the author’s experience in a leading South Australian Aged care provider to change practice to provide socially inclusive arts experiences for older people which allow them to contribute to their community and regain their status as citizens. Examples of choirs, visual arts groups, performances and writing programs will demonstrate the changes in thinking, process and partnerships that have been required. The presentation will use case studies and visual images to illustrate the creative process and highlight the sense of identity and contribution that people with dementia have experienced in arts practice.

While this is a change in a small part of dementia care it offers the opportunity to take a new perspective, to see the abilities that people with dementia retain, to find ways to support their contribution to their communities and to challenge our perceptions of what is possible to achieve in practice by taking a social citizenship approach to service delivery..

P10.4. Music maestro: The impact of using personalised mp3 player content for people with dementia on family caregivers’ perceived quality of life and burden

Margaret Winbolt, Michael Bauer, Virginia Lewis, Ben Gatehouse, Therese Desmond5 Francine Hanley, Ruth Parslow

The behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD) are a central feature of the cognitive decline that arises with dementia and BPSD bring about a number of stressors for family caregivers looking after the person with dementia at home. A high burden of care due to BPSD is strongly associated with the increased likelihood of the person with dementia being placed into long-term care. Non-pharmacological interventions that target the severity of BPSD are likely to have a positive impact on the care-giving relationship and thereby the quality of life of both the person with dementia and the caregiver. 

This presentation reports on the trial of a novel strategy in Victoria, Australia which seeks to support the needs of family caregivers of people with dementia. The projects aimed to determine: (1) whether an MP3 player loaded with personalised content, when given to people with dementia by the family caregiver, provided respite from the high level of vigilance and stressors often needed in caring, both at home and in public spaces and (2); the effects of the MP3 player on the family caregivers’ perceived quality of life and carer burden.  Carers’ level of MP3 use and comparative data measuring the effects of the MP3 player on caregivers’ stress levels, mental health, self-care opportunities and management of BPSD between two time points over a four week period will be reported.

P10.5. TheHolding Time Bowl Initiative: Translating an Expressive Arts Program to Overcome Negative Misperceptions

Michelle Burns

The number of individuals diagnosed with dementia is projected to triple by the year 2050.  Negative misperceptions about the disease are rampant. This not only increases a growing sense of isolation for the person diagnosed but also creates a societal challenge of how to address normalizing the lives of so many in this emerging crisis. One of the most successful ways to fight these devastating negative perceptions is to create informative yet non-threatening educational opportunities for the community at large.

At the 2011 Alzheimer’s Europe conference, I presented the methodology of our Expressive Arts programCreative Journeys. This was a comprehensive presentation on how to build a program to create practical and sophisticated outcomes that dignify the participant. Once you have established a successful Expressive Arts program, it provides a rewarding attraction to the program for the artists themselves, plus it allows for the successful use of these unique outcomes as a tool for outreach to the broader community. With creative planning, these types of art pieces are perfect examples of bridging a gap by using art to comfortably invite others into the world of dementia.

The Holding Time Bowl Project is a model for leveraging the sophisticated expressive art program to increase grant funding and reach out to enhance community awareness. This initiative was created specifically to show the blending emotions our artists share with the “outside” world through a series of bowls symbolizing the dementia experience.

The project began with making bowls from impermeable mediums and graduated to increasingly porous mediums demonstrating the changing mind and the values therein. This project not only became a vehicle for the artists to face the fading independence they cling to, but also provided a crucial element of education about their surprising remaining abilities. In this presentation I will provide a look into how a comprehensive project is being used for successful outreach, awareness and funding opportunities.

Participants of the workshop will learn about:

  • The emergence and implementation of theHolding Time Bowl Projectand its outcomes.
  • Resources for gaining support for this type of initiative (building a “funding attractive” program, using visiting artists, students, volunteers) and outcomes of successful programming.
  • The effect it has with our artists while reaching out to others who shared our journey, and most importantly examples of how it changed their perceptions of our artists and energized our community.



Last Updated: Thursday 15 November 2012