The arts can enhance relationships between dementia care staff and care home residents

The arts have been shown to affirm dementia care staff skills and confidence, enabling meaningful exchanges with residents that can be creative, ‘in the moment’, spontaneous and improvised.

A partnership between Bangor University’s DSDC Wales Research Centre (the research group from Ageing & Dementia at Bangor in School of Health Sciences), Dementia Positive, TenFiveTen Consultancy and Flintshire County Council Social Services resulted in an 18-month research project which developed and tested Creative Conversations, an art-based staff development programme for the dementia care workforce.

Developed by John Killick, who has written extensively on the subject of communication and creativity in dementia, Creative Conversations developed the skills of dementia care staff using a range of creative activities (poetry, film, music, art making) to increase awareness of possibilities within dementia care. It aimed to equip staff with practical communication skills to enhance caring relationships between staff and residents in their day-to-day practice.

Care staff from 14 care homes in Flintshire, North Wales took part in this study. They found the approach of learning through the arts strengthened their understanding of their residents, including the importance of non-verbal communication. It gave them the confidence to try more creative approaches to care. They also valued the opportunity to reflect on their own practice and to learn from staff from other homes.

Dr Katherine Algar-Skaife, who led the research, said:

“The arts are increasingly recognised as important and beneficial activities for people living with dementia. In this project we have shown that learning through the arts can also enhance the skills of dementia care staff and enable them to develop a deeper understanding of the residents they care for.”

Luke Pickering-Jones, who collaborated on the project on behalf of Flintshire County Council Social Services said:

“This project gave Flintshire Social Services and their care homes the chance to develop its workforce in a unique and untraditional way. We have seen care homes’ enthusiasm, abilities and compassion throughout the project, giving Flintshire an enhanced pride in our care homes. Building on this success, we are now also offering the sessions to family caregivers”.

Funded by Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales and the Wellcome Trust, the newly published research can be accessed here from the journal Aging & Mental Health:

Publication date: 1 April 2019