14th – 20th May 2017
“It is crucial for family and professional carers to develop their abilities to continue to relate to the person with dementia as a real person, with real feelings … they must find ways of reinforcing the person’s humanity, rather than undermine the already precarious sense of self.”
Gibson, F. 2011. Reminiscence and Life Story Work: A Practice Guide. 4th ed. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Dramatherapy is a creative means of engaging with and supporting older adults, who often experience increased physical frailty, sensory impairment and/or dementia. Many older people experience different kinds of loss, including mental capacity and mobility. This can be compounded by other physical problems and significant life changes, such as moving into residential care. These factors may have the effect of causing low self-esteem, depression, feelings of worthlessness and isolation. Roundabout works with older people including those with dementia. We have found that through attending regular dramatherapy sessions group members experience:
- Improved mental health
- Effective psychological and emotional support
- Increased connections with others
- Stimulated memory and interest
- Exploration of life issues
- Increased opportunities to think about, discuss and reflect on ideas.
- Increased level of enjoyment
Roundabout ran a project that took place over a period of four years offering group dramatherapy in different London boroughs, generously funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
Aims for the individuals within the group
- Improved mental health, through using dramatherapy to increase confidence and self-esteem.
- Less isolation due to the creation of stronger connections and better communication with their care workers, their families, each other and fellow residents/peers.
- Improved quality of life, through identifying areas of concern or anxiety and finding ways to resolve or alleviate those concerns.
- Creation of group books to record the work of the sessions and act as a memory aid from week to week, giving value to the lives and experiences of group members and increasing their imaginative and creative abilities.
Aim for the homes/day centres
- Improved opportunities to create connections and friendships amongst service users.
Story of a group
One of the groups included 7 older people all of whom had differing levels of dementia and were from diverse backgrounds.
People with dementia don’t remember their memories, they feel their memories. That’s the one thing dementia will not rob you of. You will always have feelings, even when the other stuff is slipping away. (Sheard, D. 2015. Dementiaville, episode 2. Channel 4, 11 June.)
Some of the highlights from the group included:
The sessions began with a check-in using ‘one-word feelings’ postcards. This was written on a coloured postcard for them to hold, which enabled the client to ‘own’ that feeling, and was a visual reference.
An initial creative intervention that supported meaningful connections was through discovering where people were born and where they had travelled. An inflatable world map beach ball was used, that encouraged playfulness, eye contact and motor coordination skills. Fabrics were offered as art materials to map out countries and images of travel on the floor, enabling full group participation. Individuals made choices about the type and colour of fabrics used to represent their own worlds, allowing everybody else to share and comment on these choices.
The clients enjoyed the creative way the group concluded. A heart-shaped card was given to each participant and the group shared the qualities that they had observed in each person, which were written as affirmations on each individual card. Similar to the feelings cards, these could be held and owned.
Feedback from the project included comments from participants
‘The trees are waving goodbye. You feel as though you’ve actually done something instead of just watching.’
‘ Today was very good. We’ve had music, poetry-an array of goodness’
‘I feel as though I’ve been lifted out of this contraption (wheelchair) and walked.’
‘What you feel inside you’ve got to let it all out’
And comments from Carers/Staff:
C has gained more confidence and independence – joins in and socialises more.
She has really enjoyed going to dramatherapy. She has also been less depressed and looks forward to going every week.
F is more able to say how he is feeling
She has shown constant signs of improvement over the last few months and is less anxious
Highlights of the project are shared with permission from the authors. An article explaining the whole project was published in the Dramatherapy Journal Volume 37, 2015- Issue1
The names of clients have been changed and permission for publication given.
Alzheimer’s Society https://www.alzheimers.org.uk
During Dementia Awareness Week, 14-20 May, Alzheimer’s Society is asking everyone across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to unite against dementia. Dementia is set to be the 21st century’s biggest killer. But awareness and understanding remains low and many families are facing it alone. That’s why, during the Week, we want everyone to come together and take action. By uniting, we can raise awareness, offer help and understanding, improve care and urgently ﬁnd a cure.
Click here for more.