In our early work, we focused strictly on the idea of engagement (in the moment) for people living with dementia as a measure of our program’s success. We felt that if we were able to capture participants’ attention and encourage them to participate in activities, it would demonstrate that the program ‘worked’. Many research tools have been designed to capture signs of engagement, and in our research, we were able to demonstrate that our programs met this goal in participants at various stages of dementia. You can read more about our findings in two articles, and our research is summarized here:
To evaluate engagement in participants in the mid- to late-stages of dementia, direct observations followed the “Affect and Engagement Rating Scale” (Modified Philadelphia Affect Rating Scale). This scale measures interest, pleasure, sadness, anxiety, and anger through observations of certain behaviours displayed by the program participants. Additional measures were drawn from the perspective of the family members who attended the program with their loved one using a questionnaire.
Through our first research study, we concluded that the program offered activities and a structure that promoted a person-centered approach, and created activities that friends or family members could share with participants. Participating in art activities seemed to help partners shift their focus to the more positive aspects of caregiving, such as the satisfaction in seeing their loved one find renewed interest and joy in an activity. (Humphrey, J., 2018)
Observing and evaluating engagement is an effective measure of how well you are connecting with your participants, and a good start for further development and evaluation.
In more recent work, we realized that engagement, while an essential component of the Artful Moments experience, did not fully capture the impact we were seeing and hearing about from our participants. They enjoyed the activities and experiences they had in the moment, but their feedback told a much larger story. We learned that by being engaged, they were experiencing an improvement in their mood, their self-image, and their relationships. For some, that improvement happened within the timeframe of the program itself, but anecdotally we heard from many participants and their loved ones that the effects lasted much longer, even after the memory of the program itself began to fade.
What we discovered was that engagement was a process by which we achieved a larger impact and that improved wellbeing was the outcome of Artful Moments.
Wellbeing has become a ubiquitous term in many areas of life from health to happiness. We all have a vague sense of what it means to us, but in order to be measured, it must be clearly defined.