Residents and their families from Green Heys Care Home, in Liverpool, have participated in a pioneering artistic research project that explores the impact that touch can have in promoting stimulation and emotional connection in dementia care. The findings were revealed to participants for the first time during a special exhibition launch at FACT (Foundation for Arts and Creative Technology) in Liverpool during February.
Green Heys, which is part of award-winning social care charity Community Integrated Care, supports 50 older people including people living with dementia. The home was invited by leading arts collective, Invisible Flock, to take part in the dementia research project, ‘Hold’.
The six month programme, which began in August 2016, has seen the artists and technology developers from Invisible Flock spend time with three Green Heys residents who live with dementia, as well as the important people in their lives – including family members and care staff. Through in-depth conversations and activity sessions they have explored the different everyday ways in which touch is personally important to them.
The insight from the research has led to the development of a 3D prototype – an augmented interactive photo album that has personal memorable photographs and videos digitally projected onto it. It cleverly tracks where and how people touch the pages as well as their vital signs, such as pulse rates, revealing insightful details about the importance of photos and how we interact with them both physically and emotionally.
Following the reveal of the innovative prototype to participants, artists from Invisible Flock, along with Professor Nadia Berthouze from University College London (UCL) who supported the project, hosted an intimate Q&A session with the audience. They then accompanied guests on a guided tour through the exhibition.
The project was funded by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award – a grant from the charitable foundation for projects that engage the public with biomedical science through the arts. With touch being one of the least understood human senses, it is hoped that this research will have exciting practical applications in the future.
Jennifer Connelly, the daughter of one of the residents from Green Heys, said: “My mum and I really enjoyed taking part in the project. We got to spend time together, sharing our favourite memories. To see the final prototype on display at FACT was amazing! Mum really engaged with it and we enjoyed seeing our photos come to life. For a few moments I got my Mum back and was able to have a chat with her like the old days. I’ll treasure that moment forever.”
Deborah Higgins, Service Manager of Green Heys, said: “We were delighted to be invited to take part in this project and have the opportunity to explore innovative approaches to dementia care. It’s really important for us at Green Heys to keep our relatives, and the community, connected with the people we support. It’s been a really collaborative project and Invisible Flock did a fantastic job in created a really exciting photo album that we can completely personalise for the people we support.”
Phil Pegler, Community Integrated Care’s Interim Chief Executive Officer, said: “Our charity is extremely proud to have taken part in such an innovative and forward-thinking research project. With over 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, looking at new ways to enhance the support we are able to offer is crucial. The people who live in our homes and their families were involved every step of the way, sharing their thoughts, memories and ideas and were delighted to see these brought to life in such an exciting way.”