Arts in Dementia Care: Beware of the Silo Building

Tandem_logoI am looking forward the upcoming TAnDem Arts and Dementia Conference entitled “Research into Practice”. I come from a healthcare and training background and am a keen supporter and advocate of arts in care (music especially) I look forward to improving my knowledge and confidence through the conference.

I won’t lie though, my feathers are always ruffled when I note that events progressing arts in dementia care are often viewed as being of particular interest to arts therapists, practitioners, artists and researchers. Others might be people living with dementia and their carers, and funders and commissioners of arts programmes.

And let the silo building begin…

The irony in the absence of clinical, health and social care workers as key audience members and participants has got me riled up! The absence (perhaps exclusion) of  those who deliver the most intimate, direct, continuous, medical and social support to people with dementia is a mistake. They are in fact the priority. For the uptake of arts in dementia to be implemented as part of practice requires their up-skill.

The good work of a music therapist, art therapist, ANYist(!) is easily undermined or undone by staff who lack an understanding of the theories, process and impact of art interventions. Think about it. Whilst research for its own sake is beneficial to researchers and art practitioners, in order to see it really translate into practice requires a multi-disciplinary approach. We want to see these arts translate into support plans, care plans, funded care packages right? The establishment of music, painting, craft, poetry as part of the management of pain, anxiety etc…in dementia care right?

Arts are not a useful adjunct but a necessity for quality of life, personalised care and wellbeing. Without frontline health and care teams engagement in conferences like this we can be assured that arts, creativity, even assistive technology will always be relegated to the periphery of traditional care settings. It is a mistake that costs people with dementia and their Carers dearly.

Hoping to see frontline staff at this conference. Let’s all learn more about how to enhance music and creative arts approaches to care so people living with dementia can flourish.


Farai Pfende
Head of Learning & Development

One Response to Arts in Dementia Care: Beware of the Silo Building

  1. Jennie Prest August 25, 2016 at 2:00 am #

    I was really interested to read your comments on the involvement of “carers, and funders and commissioners of arts programmes.” I volunteer on a weekly basis to teach art at a local care home for elderly and disabled people, so I experience first hand the large gap between those enjoying the art sessions and the understanding of the care staff in particular, as they are only involved in getting the participants to and from the art room. There are exceptions – those care staff who take a real interest in what participants are working on, and involve them in discussions about it on their arrival and departure, but these are the exception.

    As cost is the governing factor in this and most such establishments, I’m not hopeful that much will change. Hopefully I am wrong. Jennie Prest

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