A partnership between Bangor University’s DSDC Wales Research Centre and Flintshire County Council Social Services has resulted in an 18-month research project which developed and tested Creative Conversations, an art-based staff development programme aimed at supporting people living with dementia.

The project worked with fourteen Flintshire care homes, offering their staff creative workshops to offer new and alternative techniques to support people living with dementia and to help stimulate converstation with them.

Developed by John Killick, who has written extensively on the subject of communication and creativity in dementia, Creative Conversations developed the skills of dementia care staff using a range of creative activities (poetry, film, music, art making) to increase awareness of possibilities within dementia care. It aimed to equip staff with practical communication skills to enhance caring relationships between staff and residents in their day-to-day practice.

Care staff found the approach of learning through the arts strengthened their understanding of their residents, including the importance of non-verbal communication. It gave them the confidence to try more creative approaches to care. They also valued the opportunity to reflect on their own practice and to learn from staff from other homes.

Dr Katherine Algar-Skaife, who led the research, said “The arts are increasingly recognised as important and beneficial activities for people living with dementia. In this project we have shown that learning through the arts can also enhance the skills of dementia care staff and enable them to develop a deeper understanding of the residents they care for.”

Luke Pickering-Jones, who collaborated on the project on behalf of Flintshire County Council Social Services said “This project gave Flintshire Social Services and their care homes the chance to develop its workforce in a unique and untraditional way. We have seen care homes’ enthusiasm, abilities and compassion throughout the project, giving Flintshire an enhanced pride in our care homes. Building on this success, we are now also offering the sessions to family caregivers”.

Funded by Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales and the Wellcome Trust, the newly published research can be accessed here from the journal Aging & Mental Health: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13607863.2019.1590310

Photo: Some of the Creative Conversations team [L-R: Jen Roberts, Maria Caulfield, John Killick, Luke Pickering-Jones, Kat Algar-Skaife, Donna Miles]