North East care group joins £1.2M dementia research project

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Resident James Wild with care home manager Jackie Murray
Resident James Wild with care home manager Jackie Murray
Artist Claire Ford, Oakdale carer Kath Mitchell and resident David Riley
Artist Claire Ford, Oakdale carer Kath Mitchell and resident David Riley

A North East care provider is taking part in an innovative national study analysing the impact of art on people suffering from dementia and memory loss.

The focus has been on a group of dementia and memory loss residents at a South Shields care home, which is the first residential and dementia specialist care home in the country to take part in the £1.2m funded study.

The study has already seen some positive impact the sessions have made on participants, with improvements in communication and mental wellbeing and awareness during the dynamic and interactive sessions.

Lead researcher Andrew Newman, who is also a senior lecturer at the School of Arts and Cultures, Newcastle University, said: “Our research focusses on being creative, ‘in the moment’ and making social connections. The participants attend in small groups and are encouraged towards personal expressions which are artistic.

“Each multisensory tool is used to help draw out the different abilities and preferences of participants. We have used different drawing techniques, iPad’s and sculpting to explore the creativity of the residents. We have also started to see some great results during the sessions, from calmer residents to some residents becoming more talkative. It has made a positive impact in such a short period of time.”

Andrew continued to praise the partnership with Executive Care: “We have been welcomed by Executive Care staff and the family members of their residents. They have been very cooperative and patient with not only the sessions but also our collection of data, we couldn’t have completed the research without the help of those involved.”

Research analysis is expected to be completed by the end of the year and will explore how the visual arts can increase connectivity and well-being for people with dementia and their families.

The intervention programme is being delivered by Equal Arts, the North East’s creative ageing charity which has pioneered creative work in care homes, and will run alongside the research in an NHS assessment unit in Derbyshire and housing in North Wales, drawing data from 450 participants and respondents.

The focus of the collaboration is to research techniques which can improve the quality of life, wellbeing cognitive and communication benefits of those living with dementia, as well as to discourage isolation and reconnect sufferers with their local communities.

Chief executive of Executive Care David Harrison said: “We were enthusiastic to join this particular project as we have many residents with dementia and memory loss. We understand the need and support of dementia care research so we can strive to improve the wellbeing and quality of life for those who are effected.

“Activities that promote interaction and creativity are greatly encouraged throughout all of our homes. We feel that the Equal Arts sessions will not only provide entertainment for our residents, but provide key research for a national project which may provide results to support the best dementia care.

“The dignified, respectful and compassionate way the team of artists and researchers approach the sessions directly reflects our own policy on dementia care, which made it the ideal partnership.”

The individualised and person centred care which Executive Care ensures was further supported by the adaptation of the sessions for residents with specialist requirements, such as the need to work separated from the group or reading materials for those who are able to read.

Jackie Murray, manager at Oakdale Lodge said: “The sessions have encouraged us to approach modern and effective ways of delivering care to our residents with dementia. It has also made us confident in delivering similar sessions. We feel that we are at the forefront of dementia care and providing the best possible quality of life to the residents.

“It is something that all of our staff and families involved have been very supportive with as they can see during the sessions the positive effect it has on residents.

“Visual Arts have thoroughly supported our pledge to provide the best quality, personalised and dignified care by delivering well planned sessions.”

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