Key concepts to appreciate for helping individuals with dementia engage fully in an Artful Moments activity:
Each person’s abilities are unique to that person, and it is vital to promote their continued abilities, rather than focus on what has changed because of their dementia. A facilitator should look to pull out whatever strengths they see in each participant to encourage their participation in whatever manner is possible for each person. By providing opportunities to use these retained abilities, we provide the conditions for feelings of success and contribution.
Individuals’ strengths remain across areas of the brain including cognition, language, perception, physical abilities, and mood. Participants may have more skills available to them in different areas, and at different times in the program as abilities may fluctuate with time of day, medication changes, amount of sleep, and progression of the disease. Typically, participants in the earlier stages will retain more strengths than those in the middle to late stages.
With an understanding of dementia and its impact, facilitators will learn to recognize where the participant’s strengths and abilities lie each session. Over time, the facilitators may be attuned to experiences in which the individual may do well and anticipate where difficulties may occur.
Based on this awareness, the facilitator can offer each participant the “just right challenge” and recognize when and how to make adjustments to facilitate the participant’s engagement. Our experience and previous research has shown that Artful Moments works to create meaningful engagement for people living with dementia across the disease trajectory, including participants in the later stage of the disease.