Improving dementia care with the arts

ceramic hand
A ceramic hand created by a participant in Dementia and Imagination

Victoria Tischler, Professor of Arts and Health and the Head of Dementia Care Centre, began her research on dementia care after a ‘serendipitous meeting at a conference’ with another delegate. ‘We got chatting and it turned out both of us were psychologists, and we were both really interested in art and how art might be useful for people with dementia specifically.’

From that initial conversation, she with a team of researchers has gone on to secure £1.2M funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to look at using visual arts in a therapeutic way for people with dementia.

The project is called Dementia and Imagination and follows a cohort of people across the UK to understand the effect interacting with and creating art has on people with dementia.

The results so far have been promising – when people with dementia are engaging with art they are able to focus for a long period of time, their mood lifts and, most intriguingly, they are able to remember and anticipate what they do in an art gallery.

As a society, we rely heavily on verbal communication, but when that breaks down, as often happens with dementia, finding another way to communicate is essential. Art, music, dance are a way of reaching people, of connecting and communicating with them, without having to rely on words.

A long term vision for dementia care

woman sitting with her self portraitDementia is a growing issue in the UK with more people living longer with dementia. Whilst there is always a lot of noise around a dementia cure, Prof Tischler says that we really need to focus on dementia care.

Ultimately she wants to improve the quality of life for people with dementia and help them live well with the condition, using the most innovative approaches possible.

Long term she hopes to develop permanent community hubs where the design and décor are an integral part of the holistic experience of dementia care.

These hubs would feature memory clinics and provide health and social care support, as well as art galleries and cafes. Prof Tischler is adamant that this kind of care should be available to everyone, and hopes that her research will provide the evidence needed to create this care model.


Bringing dementia to the public realm with the Imagination Café

Throughout Dementia Awareness week, 14 – 20 May, Prof Tischler will be working with renowned nutritionist Jane Clarke and artists from Nottingham Contemporary to create a pop-up installation called the Imagination Café.

The Imagination Café grew out of a way to engage the public with different strands of Prof Tischler’s research.

Decorated with art created by people with dementia during the Dementia and Imagination study, and serving a posh afternoon tea designed for people with dementia, the café will also include activities lead by the Alzheimer’s Society, Dementia UK and local musicians, actors and artists. If it is successful, Prof Tischler plans to tour the Imagination Café around the country.

People with dementia are often written off, but they’re all individuals who’ve got lives and stories and things to give.

Visit the Imagination Café for free craft activities, food specifically designed for those living with health conditions as well as access to information, advice and support. 15 and 16 May located at Old Market Square, Nottingham NG1 2DT.

See the event page for more details.