Creative Communications

Spaghetti Weston (www.spaghettiweston.com)

A qualitative evaluation of psychosocial outcomes of the Creative Communications pilot project for people with dementia

Aim – to explore the impact of a six week pilot programme of person‐centred dance, movement and visual arts (‘Creative Communications’) on residents at a care home.

Objectives – to observe participants during the arts activities to elicit information regarding their attitude and behaviour; to seek the views of facilitators, Activity Coordinators and other care home staff involved in the project to ascertain their views and experiences of the pilot programme; and to make recommendations as to the continued delivery of such projects in this and similar settings.

Funding sources – Ideas Test (Creative People & Places), Higher Education Innovation Funding (Canterbury Christ Church University).

Timescale and delivery dates – the artists provided two introductory sessions in order to get to know the participants and provide a taster of the activities.  This gave the participants an opportunity to say whether they wished to continue with the sessions.  The evaluation took place alongside the pilot programme, which incorporated 6 artist-led sessions between April and June 2015.  

Location – Chatham, Kent.

Context and Setting – sessions took place once a week in an activity room at a residential care home for people living with dementia.

Description of the arts activity

Luci Napleton has been a community dance practitioner since 2000 and is a professional member of ‘People Dancing’.  With a grassroots approach, Luci has been developing and facilitating dance, health and wellbeing projects for over 15 years.  Luci founded and is Director of ‘edna Ltd’ which was a pilot project involving dance, arts, health and wellbeing in 2013, www.ednasjourney.org.uk.

Wendy Daws is a visual artist based in Medway. With over 15 years experience of working in the arts, she thrives on collaborating with other people, sharing ideas, exploring hidden stories and making things happen and believes strongly that disability is not an impairment to creativity. Art is for all regardless of age, ability or background, www.wendydaws.co.uk.

The person-centred dance, movement and art activities included props and materials such as ribbon, feathers, stretchy material, balls, paint, and embossing foil.  The artists’ aim was to stimulate both conversation and the senses of participants.  Sessions were participant-led so although dance began as guided movement it evolved to become the participants’ own with the artists following, which enhanced the empowerment of all involved.

In order to ensure that participants remained engaged in the activities throughout the sessions, physical activity readiness questionnaires were completed with the assistance of care home staff in advance of the pilot commencing.  This raised awareness of any medical or physical conditions to be taken into consideration for the planned activities.

Details of the project participants

Care home management and staff identified up to 12 residents (who were all living with dementia) from across the three floors at the care home who would be most interested and able to attend the Creative Communications sessions.

Project management

Sharon Manship (CCCU) was responsible for the conduct of the evaluation, including obtaining ethical clearance, devising data collection tools, conducting research fieldwork, and writing up the final evaluation report.  Professor Eleni Hatzidimitriadou (CCCU) oversaw the work of the evaluation and provided guidance and expertise where necessary.

Luci Napleton designed the pilot in consultation with Wendy Daws, and both artists jointly delivered and managed sessions and were responsible for quality assurance.  Two Activity Coordinators employed by the care home were present at each session to assist the facilitators, and were joined by other care home staff when possible.  The weekly pilot programme sessions were free of charge for participants to attend.

Ethical approval was sought from the Faculty of Health and Wellbeing Research Ethics Committee at Canterbury Christ Church University and formal confirmation to commence the evaluation was granted by the Chair.  In order to ensure that participants were competent to consent to take part in the evaluation, care home staff assisted the researcher in distributing information sheets and sat with each resident individually to explain these as well as to obtain informed consent via the signing of a consent form.  Consent forms were countersigned by both the care home staff member and the researcher.  This process was repeated at the beginning of each observed session to ensure that capacity to consent amongst the participants was maintained.

Evaluation methods and findings

Timed observations of three out of the six sessions were conducted as well as semi-structured interviews with care home staff and the project facilitators. Through the use of observation scales, a number of outcomes were assessed including commitment, creative expression, embodiment, verbal and non‐verbal communication, wellbeing and satisfaction. The interviews assisted in exploring from the professionals’ and facilitators’ perspective of the impact of the project in these domains as well as exploring further key themes regarding the experiences of those involved in the programme in terms of quality of life and other related factors.

The evaluation demonstrated that Creative Communications sessions provided physical, psychological and social benefits to the participants, including the opportunity to participate in meaningful activities; behavioural improvements; increased mobility, social interaction, confidence, self‐esteem, mood and concentration; increased skills; and higher levels of wellbeing. These findings confirm evidence from previous studies about the benefits of non‐pharmacological methods in the care of people with dementia.

Recommendations made as a result of the evaluation included ensuring further collaborative work between artists and care homes takes place; the involvement of care home staff and relatives of residents in future sessions; consultation with participants prior to and throughout the intervention; and encouragement of commissioners to consider supporting arts for health projects involving older people, which incorporate comprehensive evaluations.

Final report: Manship, S. and Hatzidimitradou, E. (2015) A qualitative evaluation of psychosocial outcomes of the Creative Communications pilot project for people with dementia. Canterbury: Canterbury Christ Church University. ISBN: 978-1-909067-49-3

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England