Creating an artwork

Natashaartist

Registered User
Nov 16, 2004
2
Bath
Hello, I'm an artist and this is my first time on a discussion forum, so slightly scary - don't know if I'm in the right discussion place!

My grandmother suffers from Alzheimers, and I've seen it's progression over the last 10 years in large time gaps, as we only visit her about once a year (she lives in Ireland, and my family is in the UK). My mother finds it hard to visit as we all sit round and find it difficult to know what to talk to her about, as she is so suspicious of us 'strangers'.

Now my mother is showing the first signs of dementia (she's 50) and forgetting words and what she did during the day.

I want to find out as much information as possible about how to start looking after my mother. I am hoping to calm my worry and lack of control over our futures by using my artwork as an outlet.

I usually create artworks for healthcare (hospital) environments, and have an idea to bring some interest and stimulation into the care homes of people suffering from dementia and alzheimers.

I've read on your forum some members calling these care homes "dreary" or uninspiring. Perhaps the carers and members here could give me some pointers on what sort of artwork would be most appropriate and appreciated in this environment.

Has anyone had any positive reactions to existing artwork styles, or do you think it may be possible to inculde those at the homes in the design of artworks for their own walls? I'm sure if I tried to do clay or printing with my gran she'd forget what or why she was doing it, but do you think it would still be interesting and fun for people like her to do, even if it were a challenge?

Anyway if you're interested in discussing this, I'd really appreciate some guidance, as I want to produce something which can benefit and create enjoyment for families visiting as well as people living in the carehomes.
Natasha
 

Brucie

Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
12,413
near London
Hello Natasha

first of all, I'm sorry to hear about your Mum - do consider any and all alternatives to dementia before you reckon that is the problem. An assessment will help, but may alarm your Mum if not positioned appropriately.

Regarding artwork in care homes, I don't know really. I am fortunate in that Jan's home is a new building with lots of light.

There are certainly paintings and collections of photographs on the walls, but I reckon these are mostly for the benefit of staff and visitors, as the residents rarely give them a second glance.

That could mean of course that the wall hangings have already done their work in making the place more homely.

It may be that artwork is best positioned in day centres where people who are earlier in their dementia can still appreciate them.

Not all care homes may have so many really advanced cases as the one I visit daily, so other ones may be more likely to be able to use pictures.

Using your art as an outlet for yourself is a great idea! Especially when you reckon that it does good not only for you, but others as well.

Do use Talking Point to learn about the whole subject of dementias through the experience of others, and through the excellent documents the Alzheimer's Society produces.

Best of luck!
 

JoJo

Registered User
Sep 25, 2003
38
Shropshire
Hi Natasha

Sorry to hear what brings you to Talking Point - it is the same for all of us sadly.

I don't know about care homes etc but my dad, who has Alzheimers and Picks Disease, regularly attends an art group funded by our local Alz Society. He paints to the point of being obsessed but it is one of his few hobbies.

In fact one of his paintings has been featured in the Dementia Journal new calendar for 2005 - he was chosen out of 4,000 entries so he is delighted.

Art seems to be a good therapy for dementia sufferers so I am sure if there is anything you can do to help it would be appreciated - esp if it means getting Alz patients involved.

JoJo
 

storm

Registered User
Aug 10, 2004
269
notts
hi natasha,I have found that really bright blocks of colour seem to promote the most reaction the brighter it is the better and not to detailed.Good luck. storm
 

Sheila

Registered User
Oct 23, 2003
2,259
West Sussex
Hello Natasha and welcome to TP. My Mum was similar in feelings to what Storm has described, bright blocks of colour etc. She also loved flowers and pictures of them, but they too had to be bright. (She had a load of gardening mags, well thumbed) Hope you can sort things out with your Mum, you know, B12 deficiency or worry can cause memory problems, (happens to me all the time!) just might be the cause, as can hormonal changes, you say she is 50. I may be clutching at straws but it's worth checking that out, besides the biggy that gives us all nightmares. I really hope your Mum is OK, but if not, you can rely on all of us here to do our best to help you get through. We are all in the same boat just at different stages of the journey, between us we have a vast amount of experience on what happens when someone has dementia and ways to cope with it all. Storm, lovely to see you post again, how are you and yours? Love She. XX
 

Natashaartist

Registered User
Nov 16, 2004
2
Bath
Thanks for all the support you have already given me and pointers on appropriate artworks.
With my mum it's one of those awkward situations where I dare not mention that she might be having problems, as I know it's a major fear of hers to have alzheimers or dementia at such a young age (early 50's).

I know I have to first research the symptoms and keep monitering her to see if there's any changes, but I dread the day I have to encourage her to be seen by a doctor to get a diagnosis. As I live in a different town, I will of course have to re-assess my own life and how as a family we can best provide for her in the future.

Anyway thanks again - it's nice to know there are others out there that I can talk to confidentially about this.
 

Chris

Registered User
May 20, 2003
243
Wall art in care homes

Hello Natasha

I work as a volunteer in a residential dementia unit and also occasionally at a day centre again for people who are living with dementia. I've also visited my Mum in various care homes over several years - in what used to be called EMI homes & latterly a general nursing home.

Very often it is pictures of flowers - large and clear in bright colours - reds, oranges, yellow that go down well. The typical collages - made by clients/residents as a group activity - are sometimes viewed with puzzlement when mounted on the wall - they can looked muddled & often not a clear image from a distance.

Work with clay - encouraging people to make whatever their fingers & the clay lead them to - was very successful & led to lots of laughter & 'flow' - whether the results were abstract or concrete images - there was a lot of satisfaction with the hand made pieces. During the process people spoke more than usual - concentrating on an activity seem to free their minds somehow & people who were usually silent suddenly came out with clear sentences .

Hope this is useful - have you an idea of where you might be able to work with residents? Good luck

Chris
 

Norman

Registered User
Oct 9, 2003
4,348
Birmingham Hades
Chris
do you run the activity classes? Do you have any therapists in attendance?
When working in the NHS one of the glaring ommisions in some homes was the lack of activities,maybe one odd session now and then.Certainly nothing as you describe.
It's good news that activities are improving
Regards
Norman
 

Sheila

Registered User
Oct 23, 2003
2,259
West Sussex
Hi Norm, I don't know if we were just lucky, but down here in the south, the homes I worked in all had activity groups, (I know because I helped run some) and Mum was always doing activities at her day centres. Of course it depends on the individual and their wanting to take part, but even listening to records from a previous era and joining in a sing along is possible to most sufferers I found. Mum did many drawings, mostly of flowers, they also did baking, although the carers did the oven bit of course, last year the day care group made their own Chrismas cake, all having a hand in adding ingredients, (smelling the spices was particularly good at bringing memories of Christmases past)a wish and a stir. Mum also decorated both the tree at home here and at day care. Love She. XX
 

Brucie

Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
12,413
near London
Whereas Jan's home regularly runs lots of activities - including horse racing [!]- I often feel that this is more as a tick in the box exercise to satisfy the management or the care standards people, or as a means to provide some variety for the staff.

The residents appear to be getting no benefit at all from the process, other than all being moved into a common area. Perhaps it enhances a sense of community, which may be helpful. It causes Jan a lot of agitation because she gets really confused by changes in routine.

I guess the residents at her home are all at a far more advanced stage than those at most care homes. I know at a very early stage, maybe 4-5 years ago, when I toured a few homes, there were simply lots of rooms where residents sat glued in chairs, with a TV on in the corner. Clearly not satisfactory. That has never been the situation at Jan's home as the residents, though advanced, appear to have amazing mobility, and are like a miniature Solar System, orbiting the place like planetary bodies.
 

Chris

Registered User
May 20, 2003
243
reply from Chris

Dear all

I desperately want to reply to you but my head is swimming and bursting so will return here a bit later - to report sensibly on activites in care homes.

My Mum passed away 2 weeks ago after 14 plus years with vascular dementia - and all that that means - you will all know some or all of that depending on the stage of the 'journey' your loved one is at.

As well as caring (in different ways during this long time - assisting Dad to care especially when he was ill or in hospital etc then after he died in 1997 as the only regular visitor to Mum in care homes , choosing care homes - all 6 of them etc etc) when time allowed I've got invovlved in Health & SS as a Carer Representative and also took lots of traiing (Dementia Care Mapping, Therapeutic horticulture, Alz Soc & local hospital training in dementia care ) , more recently do a few hours a week as volunteer - at local day centre and at a care home (here it is with an organization contracted by the up market care home to supply one hour of Therapeutic Horticulture per week (in practice we are working much, much longer - prep time, travel, setting up , clearing up , talking ot staff & residents outsde the 1 hour slot) - this is supplied by a qualified Horticultural Therapist (who also provides training in Hort for people with learnign difficulties or recovering from mental health problems - htis includes sessions paid for by local NHS health services) and 2 volunteers who are both qualified in Social & Therapeutic horticulture. - please note we are working with a ratio of 3 'staff' to 6 group members !!!!! WE do this in a dementia unit - most will have had dementia for 5 - 10 years I would guess - but residnet sfrom 'upstairs' also attend - this is a general nursign home but some have memory probs - all need physical nursign care . Its great to see peopel with such physical disability gettgn dirty filling pots with compost & planting seeds , talking aout what they wil look like in the Spring & what they did as children in the garden ........Some dont usually speak & yet start doing things - and express themeselves through the material - pushing it all away if they're fed up or taking from others if they want more - the medium of horticulture is so useful for people with sensory deficit or communication problems. At the start far more residents were being brought to us (we have to work in the dining room of course - even at £600 a week there is no activity room or wet room for crafts etc ) - the atmospere was not always therapeutic with everyone with different needs. So reluctantly in one way we restricted it to 6 people - in order to provide a quality service.

My point is !!!! with such a wide spectrum of experience and a main career in research (long time ago) - I want change and NOW !!! amd have lots of ideas - too many - now Mum is at peace I feel a huge weight lifted off my shoulders - hope my mind settles down & I get some sort of clarity about what I can achieve - if anything, out of all this - after all - I'm a non professional in the world of Health & SS - i have found that a barrier - it feels like a closed shop very often - if only I coudl say I was a Nurse - no matter it might hav ebeen years ago when the culture was so different - I would stil be taken seriously & accepted. Never mind - at least as Carers or Former Carers or Service Users we HAVE to be included in Health & SS these days - even if this does not apply to the Indepnedent sector of Care Homes ..... YET !!!! Another band wagon !!!! I've got contacts at hte Inspection unit - and everywhere there are some great people working who do understand well the needs of people with dementia and carers but their hands are tied so much by beurocracy etc

Sorry to wirte so much . I remember a quote from someone who had dementia a few years ago - he said his head felt like an empty marmalade jar full of bees buzzing around in it - thats just how I feel today !! Help !!!
 

Chris

Registered User
May 20, 2003
243
PS from Chris

PS Just in case you were wondering the £600 plus per week care home I mentioned was not the one my Mum was at !

The care homes Mum lived in were all so different and her moves were neccessitated by changing needs mostly - also care home closures. The last home (2 years) was a general nursing home - superb care and staff. However the home found it very difficult to replace their Activities Organiser - this seems to be a common problem amongst homes - the career of AOs needs to be developed - another subject !!!! but also 'activities' should not be seen as something separate - the ownership of this aspect of life needs to be by everyone in the care home. Why not have a committee made up of residents/staff AO - I dont know - maybe there is a good working model in a care home somewhere that could be usefully looked at by all homes.

Care Homes are another closed shop - lets open them up !!!!!
 

Anne54

Registered User
Sep 16, 2004
147
Nottingham
Dear Chris

I would like things to change like you but for different reasons. I will, when I win the lottery, build a home for young people with AD on the Nottinghamshire Derby border with easy access to the M1. My husband loves the place he goes to for respite but still moans that it is an old peoples home he is 57.

Anne
 

Chris

Registered User
May 20, 2003
243
Originally posted by Norman
Chris
do you run the activity classes? Do you have any therapists in attendance?

Hello Norman

I've described my role working as a volunteer with Therapeuctic Horticulture sessions at a dementia unit in last but one message.
I came to that through taking a course in Social & Therapeutic Horticulture in Somerset a couple of years ago (it was a PDC, Level IV) - for those with a qualification in either hort or health or Social work - I had none of this !! but on the strength of my scientific career , family caring & short training courses in dementia I was accepted) . (The course creator & lecturer runs the business I also described).

I took up studying horticulture as I needed respite from the world of dementia but it took me full circle when I discovered 'therapeutic horticulture' !!! Cant get away from it .

Helping out at the Day Centre came about as I had an After Dementia Millennium Award to do a project called Back to Nature (my theory was that often - carers and people with dementia can get divorced from nature - due to difficulting getting out of the house, lethargy - all sorts of reasons - knowing just how benficial nature / plants etc can be I wanted to reconnect people with the natural world. The Award covered some study/training - including practical things like flower arranging.

Then I organised a series of Creative Arts Sessions for Carers - employing an Artist but attending and helping out & taking part too myself (no need to draw - failure free, utterly relaxing, with other carers so shared empathy, escape from everyday, lovely craftwork created too - all failure free activities).

To benefit people with dementia I offered to volunteer at local day centre & took in some activities (paid for by the Award) - I worked 1:1 or very small group - planting up tubs, sowing seeds in trays, potting on flowering plants, and craft based things too - all with a link to nature - and a minibus trip to a local Animal Visitor Farm/ Centre where they all fed lambs & goats from milk bottles then tea & cakes of course . I continue to attend as a Volunteer (Award ended last April) but no funding for materials other than small budget the centre has & their own fund raising).

RE THERAPISTS

This is my understanding - Therapists working in NHS or SS eg Music Therapists, Arts Therapists, are working with patients to achieve a named clinical outcome for each patient eg reduction in anxiety enabling someone to start talking to their family when before were silent all the time.

Therapists normally work alone with their patient or small groups eg a Music Therapist takes session at the Day Centre I work at - I guess to increase levels of engagement, reduce anxiety in a general way & through clients interacting with each other, behind closed doors - mostly to facilitate concentration I guess. I empathise with that - even in my informal work I find it so frusrating to be getting somewhere - engaging with someone - it may have taken 10 minutes to do that - then a well meaning person comes in "Ooohh thats nice - did yo do that " - the moment is gone - you have to start again. At same time of course in Day Centre setting - its a normal environment - the normality of people coming & going is stimulation in itself . This is where the built evironment is so important - there needs to be rooms & areas where all differnet activities can take place - including quiet areas.

What I think is missing in all settings but particularly care homes and in peoples own homes too - is 'therapeutic activities' as opposed to 'therapy'. eg The carers sessions I ran were therapeutic art activities - but we still needed an artist to facilitate that - I could do something similar now but it wouldnt be as good or successful - I believe there is the potenital for Artists or Therapists to work with people who have training of a more general nature (esp dementia training) or have high degree of transferrable skills (as in carers) and assist them to run therapeutic sessions - as opposed to givign them Therapy.

The Artist I employed was willing to do that in future - to attend some but not all the sessions (making it more economically possible) & partially be training me and others to facilitate some of this - thats not saying we can then call ourselves 'Artists' - far from it !! its more about facilitating sessions that work well for those attending.

So.... we need more THERAPEUTIC ACTIVITIES in addition to THERAPY - and more THERAPISTS or ARTISTS willing to assist in this.

I have to say I have heard of some Therapists who are very defensive and may see this as a threat - but if we thnk about those in need - there will NEVER be enough Therapists to help all those in need - there is often one Music Therapist in a whole County (NHS anyway).

Also while Activity Organisers in Care Homes get paid such a low wage (like the Care Assistants) - how can we expect the high level of knowledge/experience/training from them?

Ditto Care Home staff - we were so lucky - Mums care as she died was superb. It extended to after death - personal care so that I could go back in to the room ( I had been with Mum as she passed away) adn see Mum - washed and dressed in clothes of my choice . The digity and respect shown made such an incredible differnence. Later I spoke to a Funeral Director who said it depends on the home & the HOme Manager what happens - its not always like that, sadly. One for the Inspectors I think.

On my soap box again! need to take control of this as i have more time now !!!

Look forward to comments and suggestions - if yourve had time to read !!!!

Chris
 

Chris

Registered User
May 20, 2003
243
Originally posted by Anne54
Dear Chris

I will, when I win the lottery, build a home for young people with AD on the Nottinghamshire Derby border with easy access to the M1. My husband loves the place he goes to for respite but still moans that it is an old peoples home he is 57.

Anne
Hello Anne I'm so sorry to read your husband has AD.

Whenever we ask for facilities for younger people with AD we get the response that there are not enough people needing the service in our area and it is better to include them in older services & get a specialised dementia services near to their own homes than a specialised service for younger people that would be long travelling distance away.

Wondered what you thought ? I was thinkiing younger people have younger carers who more likely to be fit & able to drive (you mentioned 'near the M1' possibly for that reason ??? )

Statutory services are giving the opposite argument for things like cancer services - they are providing fewer, more specialised centres of excellence & we will have to travel to them like it or not whatever our age.

Thinking of you.

Chris
 

Anne54

Registered User
Sep 16, 2004
147
Nottingham
Dear Chris

There are statistically 200 people in the Notts area with AD under the age of 65 but the powers that be still say there is no need for specialist homes for younger people. I thought that near the M1 would mean better access for more people.

Anne
 

Chris

Registered User
May 20, 2003
243
New care homes

Hello Anne

Some of the new care homes being built now are divided into several units eg general nursing tends to be on the first floor as many will be needing nursing in bed all the time and some hospice type of care being given. On the ground floor there may be one unit devoted to dementia care - perahps 15 residents .

I wonder if we could suggest one of these to be made for younger people with dementia - and if it were needs led approach there may well be some 'young' and fitter over 65 year olds who would enjoy life there and possible some with memory problems/confusion die to another cause who woudl also settle in well. So it could be made viable without destroying the atmosphere there. Bit of flexible thinking! also respite beds of course.

We have a couple of new care homes and also new units as extensions to existing homes in our area recently. How about where you are?

Chris
 

Anne54

Registered User
Sep 16, 2004
147
Nottingham
Dear Chris

The home that my husband goes to is new and very nice but it is still an old peoples home, what I had in mind is a place that has day centre, respite, residential and nursing all in one place so that people can just move on to the next stage when necessary, but I have to win the lottery first.

Anne
 

Colin Cosgrove

Registered User
Mar 10, 2004
18
www.alzheimers.org.uk
Younger people with dementia

Dear Natasha,

This thread seems to have gone a long way from your original questions, and found its way into my territory, so to speak! In my work I concentrate on younger people with dementia and the services available to them, so the last few posts have been very interesting for me.

With regard to your mum, please bear in mind the advice of Bruce and Sheila – 50 is a young age to develop dementia, and it is relatively uncommon for people to ‘inherit’ dementia from a parent. I don’t know if you said what age your grandmother was when she was first diagnosed, but was she as young as your mum is now?

There could be any number of causes for what’s going on with your mum at the moment. Confusion and memory loss are not the sole domain of dementia, and if this is becoming a problem for your mum, it’s quite important that the cause of her problems are found. It could be something quite simple and treatable, or it could even be that her worry about developing dementia is causing her to become more forgetful and confused. If you are noticing these problems, and if she is as fearful of dementia as you say, then it’s quite possible that she’s aware of them as well.

To Anne and Chris, it pains me to hear that people are still excusing their lack of provision for younger people with lack of numbers. Given that there are at least 18,000 people under 65 with dementia in the UK, it is nonsense to say there aren’t enough to merit specialist provision, or that younger people are better off incorporated into older people’s services. The whole point is that these services are often completely unsuitable! I know that resources are limited, but that is no excuse to ignore a whole group of people with very complex needs.

Residential and nursing homes for younger people around the country are full with long waiting lists, not only because demand in their area is high, but also because people are being sent from out of county because there’s nothing in their own area. There are no specialist homes in Nottingham, and none in the surrounding counties, at least none that I’m aware of. This is a dreadful situation, and to deny that is just shameful.

Anne’s idea of a comprehensive service in one place sounds just about right. I know a couple of places around the country where people are trying to find a way to provide such a service, but I gather it could take more than a lottery win to fund a project that size…

Sorry this has been a bit long. If I can be of any help at all, please get in touch.

All the best,
Colin.

P.S. - Don't forget there's a younger people with dementia group on Talking Point!
 

Chris

Registered User
May 20, 2003
243
Thanks Colin

Next time this comes up at a Mental Health meeting & I'm there as an Independent Carers Representaitive (my self appointed title - I dont like 'service user' - it makes me feel as if I have dementia - I may have - who knows which of us has ?) - I will be able to speak with more confidence.

There is a care village in Bristol that seems to work well - although it is a bit of a ghetto like design - like retirement villages in America . It is gated - big high gates electonically controlled of course - but once inside its like a village - has a 'pub' with table & chairs outside, sheltered, very sheltered housing, dementia unit , nursing care home. Lots of activiites on the site, raised beds in gardens etc

There are even better ideas around - it woudl be good to have a website where the best models of care could illustrate their environments. we'll never push back the frontiers of demenita care if we dont circulate information & ideas more - AND evaluate all new initiatives. eg how well are the new very modern mental health hospital buildings being received by patients - these all have a lot of arts commissions these days - Artists are engaged to work with all stakeholders to produce designs & install flooring, seating, gardens multi faith rooms, & all sorts - if we dont share whats happening we could go on suffering the same mistakes - like highly patterned floors.

oh dear - I've got verabal diaorrhrea today !!! (Nada - can we have a spell checker please ?).

Chris