We are spending time together in this module to better understand dementia so that we may make modifications to existing programs that are necessary to develop and present the most impactful experience possible for participants. Once these adaptations have been made, our focus changes to the specific experience of the participant.
Within our team, we use the expression, ‘leave dementia at the door’. This means that we have all of our knowledge and experience there to guide us in planning, delivery and troubleshooting, but we don’t talk about it during a program. We don’t use the word dementia during a program. We don’t talk about the changes that participants may be experiencing (unless they bring it up). During a program, we simply have a group of participants with us that we will engage in a creative program. We focus on being supportive, responsive and encouraging just as we would with any other group.
Our knowledge of dementia helps us know what to do when someone might benefit from support, and it helps us to identify potential areas for adjustment. By preparing conversations and activities that take into account the specific abilities present in our participants, we are easily able to adapt to different levels of ability, and to the changing conditions of the day. This is the heart of Artful Moments.
Artful Moments maintains a strong focus on empowering participants to experience creative, social experiences. It is about engagement and wellbeing, separate from a medical model of care. As two researchers, Mitchell and Jonas-Simpson wrote in 2019, “the intent of the arts-based activities is not to provide therapy or diversion – instead it is initiated to present opportunities for participants to more fully express themselves in the moment with others”. And Clarke-VIvier et all found in 2017 that “Self-esteem related goals are supported by offering programming that can sustain interest and engagement but does not have the disease or its symptoms at the centre”.
As facilitators we learn about dementia so that we don’t have to talk about it. We bring people together to enjoy meaningful activity and the company of others, and we adapt our program to ensure everyone is able to take part in their own way.