Throughout the program, friends or family can be a great support, offering assistance, repeating and clarifying information and completing tasks that may be too difficult for the participant. Hands-on activities are a great example of this. At each session, we offer both conversations about art and hands-on activities, and we aim to have each person participate as fully as possible. Depending on a participant’s abilities, there are several different ways for them to participate with a partner.
This is when both the participant and their friend or family member create an artwork of their own. Each has their own materials and follows the demonstration by the educator. Very often we see the pair conversing, sharing ideas and comments on the other’s work. It is a shared experience. Where the participant has difficulties, the care partner can help, either by repeating instructions, offering prompts to continue working or to demonstrate what to do using their own work, or a paper on the side. The facilitator can also support this process as they move around the room, using similar techniques.
Co-creation and Collaboration
This is when both people work together on the same artwork. Each performs certain tasks, and there is conversation about who does what. Often the partner will complete the more difficult tasks at the direction of the participant, but both have a hand in the work. For some this is a helpful step where a participant’s abilities have changed, but for others it is just a fun way to work.
In this style of work, the friend or family member typically does most or all of the actual hands-on work, but the participant directs them. The participant will choose the colours, shapes or materials and then points out where they should go. This is a good way to draw out a participant who may have withdrawn from the work, or whose abilities have been more affected by their dementia.
While we try to encourage participants to be as involved and self-directed as possible, for some this just is not possible, due to interest, mood or abilities. For participants like this, seeing their friend or family member create an artwork is enjoyable, as is the conversation or interaction that can happen while the care partner works. In some cases, watching may lead to more participation later, but for others, even this level of engagement offers many benefits. In our work with participants in the later stages of dementia, being an engaged observer was a demonstration of success and engagement in the moment.