Creative Approaches in Dementia Care

Creative Approaches in Dementia Care

“A book to break down prison walls”

This book provides dementia care which provides quality social interaction and day to day opportunities for self expression can lead to an enhanced quality of life. Drawing on the professional experience of a group of international pioneers in the field, this innovative book explores how the arts and alternative therapies can be used to encourage expression within everyday dementia car. It highlights the ways in which a range of creative approaches can support the psychological and social needs of those with dementia.

Physical health is just one of the factors which defines a person’s experience of dementia. Focusing on their emotional and spiritual well-being can hold the key to unlocking dormant abilities.

Supported by research evidence and clear theoretical frameworks, individual chapters focus on various methods, including:

  • the Spark of Life Philosophy – enabling feelings of belonging, closeness and friendships within a safe psychological environment
  • photography, videos and storytelling – encouraging the stimulation of feelings, memories and imagination
  • visual art and music therapy – highlighting the use of non-verbal communication to express thoughts, feelings and the inner self
  • dance and drama therapy – allowing the embodiment personhood through movement, improvisation and play
  • therapeutic humour – helping to harness the power of laughter over health, mind, body and spirit

With practical suggestions to guide their implementation Creative Approaches to Dementia Care adds a new dimension to traditional discourses within this important field of care. It provides an enlightening starting point for students of nursing and healthcare, as well as offering a new perspective to existing practitioners and those who care for people with dementia.


Words to break down prison walls:
Creative Approaches to Dementia Care

Sue McBean, Lecturer in Nursing at the Coleraine Campus of the University of Ulster.

The title alone is enough to make you want to pick this book up for a browse. It suggests so much more potential to give hope for future care, and to break the mould of past care models, than a “Workbook” or an “Excellence in care” or “A sociology of”.

Indeed, an exiting review cited by the publishers describes the authors as pioneers, So this in not a book about how to manage sundowning, wandering aggression or aggressive language and other behavioural difficulties. It is not problem centred. Instead, it focuses on aspects of human life that are the very reasons life is so precious, but are so often taken for granted when we are independent and healthy.

Laughter, movement (such as dance), music, photography, use of narrative, enjoying time just “being” with another person: these can so easily go missing in the chaos of the daily struggle to survive that carers experience in carrying out challenging routine dementia care.

With Australian and UK experts as editors, the tome of this explicitly Rogerian, person-centred and inspirational book instantly has global appeal.

Authors draw on literature from many English-speaking countries around the world. What strikes me is that beneath the practical suggestions for activities – some well known already, but with many new ideas – lies a philosophy of healing and love, compassion and care.

So you can read the book on two levels. First as an aid to activity ideas with an evidence base for why these will work; and second, and this is the more significant contribution of the book to dementia care, as a revolution in mindset about how we need to change our view about minimising the impact of a disease process that affects so many. This is not a problem like obesity that requires us merely to correct behaviour; this is a long-term palliative situation where working to allow people to live life to its fullest is vital, for dementia will ultimately affect most of us, be it as relative, formal carer, or patient.

The groundbreaking and visionary contribution this book makes is beyond its consideration of living what life is left to the full for the person with dementia and close associates. What you gain from reading the book is the firm belief that dementia diagnosis does not have to be only a downward spiral of decay: even when one is aphasic, for example, taking photographs can be a way of expression.

This book takes the idea of occupational activities such as dusting or planting into an entirely new dimension, where the only limitations are our ability to dream and purchase expert support periodically, the concept of respite could be enhanced by making opportunities for sharing creative activities when it is not simply rest for the carer what is needed.

But to call this book simply groundbreaking would belittle it. This is a book to break down prison walls. Being a chronically addicted book collector for several decades, I have many books that I value, but this book is in my top 10 from the past 40 years.

Who is it for?
This will be a treasured possession and well-thumbed library title for formal carers in all Western countries right across the multidisciplinary team, and it will be a valuable asset for informal carers too. It has the potential to park off new work outside the Western world. I would make this an essential purchase for first year students right across nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, social work and psychology, but this is not an exclusive list. Every nursing and residential home should find ways to take a day away to discuss that implications and actions resulting from the text. Dementia training and education programmes from one-day events to master’s level should have this at the core of their philosophical and practical approaches.

Twelve chapters with more than a dozen experts in as many areas of creative work. The chapters are short enough to be read in an hour and each is well referenced by up-to-date, international-quality, relevant and widely varied sources.

Would you recommend it?
It is hard to find a superlative to describe how heartily and sincerely I wish to recommend this book. It is great value for money, a pleasure to read and will be one of those books you will want to treasure for the rest of your career and probably beyond.

Excerpt from Creative Approaches to Dementia Care:

Dr Richard Taylor, who has Alzheimer’s disease, in addressing the conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International in Singapore, 2009, called on the dementia care leaders in the audience to put psychosocial interventions onto the priority list so that people living with dementia might have their emotional needs understood and met, ‘We are millions living with dementia right now and we need your help to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, while we are waiting for a cure’ (Power et al., 2009).

The topic of this book responds to this heartfelt plea so powerfully expressed by Richard Taylor. The topic also fits within the new paradigm of placing the person first that is currently evolving in the health and care of people with dementia. This underlying approach of person-centred care combined with new insights from the frontiers of creative arts and science to enhance the health of mind, boy and spirit combined. Recent research shows us that as the brain remains plastic, new or compensatory learning can still occur in dementia, so when we use creativity we can not only support improvement in abilities but also create a life worth living for people with dementia (Power, 2010).