Museums provide unique stimulation and engagement for people with dementia

Museums hold a unique position in being able to help those living with dementia. Now more and more museums and galleries around the country are rising to the challenge of becoming dementia-friendly, and using their collections to develop innovative schemes to stimulate and engage.

Reminiscence is a powerful tool, and museum collections can hold the key to opening up memories, triggering conversations, building relationships with carers and providing a stimulus for creativity.

Under the guidance of specially trained museum staff, guided tours of an exhibition, the opportunity to handle artefacts, and explore craft activities, all provide a forum for social engagement and increased communication that can help support both the person with dementia and their carer(s).

Here at Local Dementia Guide,  in an earlier blog post we featured the House of Memories programme, developed by Liverpool National Museum. Introduced in 2012 as a dementia-awareness experience to develop the skills of health and social care professionals, the programme has proved so successful that it has since been opened up to friends, family and volunteer carers. Specially designed activities can be undertaken either at the museum itself, as outreach programmes in nursing and care homes, or via an app in your own home.

The undoubted success of this project has inspired museums across the country, and the past few years has seen huge interest in providing outreach to people with dementia and other memory disorders.

In 2014 the Alzheimer’s Society commissioned a Dementia Friendly Arts Group to further investigate the subject and produce a report on dementia friendly arts communities which is to be published this year.

Working as part of this group, Esme Ward, Head of Learning and Engagement at Manchester Museum and Whitworth Art Gallery has been looking at some of the best examples of projects being developed. Writing for industry blog, Museum and Heritage Advisor, she shares her findings…

Museums and galleries are crammed full of objects and artworks of historical, social and personal significance. Across the UK there are many wonderful programmes which use collections and sites to open up memories and conversations or focus on in-the-moment creative activity for people with dementia and those who care for them. Many are rightly known nationally and internationally within both the health and cultural sectors, including National Museum Liverpool’s House of Memories, Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Visual to Vocal programme and Tyne and Wear Archive and Museum’s Platinum Extra Care Programme. But one of the most inspiring things about being involved in this process is discovering more about work taking place across the country, across artforms and in organisations of all shapes and sizes.

So, I wanted to highlight a few of the innovative and quality museum programmes and projects I’ve come across so far. Beamish Museum Dementia Awareness week (includes Singing for the Brain sessions with Alzheimer Society groups, a ‘dementia cafe’ set up in a 1940s farmhouse, craft activities and garden party, including partnerships with the Alzheimer’s Society). Peer Support Cultural Partnership in Leeds with Leeds Museums and Galleries, the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds Library Service and Peer Support Services coming together to offer an inventive and imaginative form of therapy. RAF Museum Cosford’s wide-ranging dementia friendly programme, including The Horizon Dementia Drop-in Cafe.

Sensory Palaces at Historic Royal Palaces is developing a programme to engage with people affected by dementia and their carers by inspiring storytelling and a giving sense of wonder. ‘Arts and Minds’ at Plymouth Museum and Art Gallery, which draws on the evidence around how creative activity might slow down degeneration of the disease. This series of regular art workshops targets people living with early stages of dementia or recent diagnosis and not within the formal care system.

The cognitive functioning of the group is being monitored by an external organisation Memory Matters. All these examples demonstrate highly effective partnership working with health and social care providers and a friendly, social, personalised approach. I know that’s what we aim for in our work in this area.

For further information about each of the local initiatives mentioned, click on the coloured link within the article.

Source: http://advisor.museumsandheritage.com/ 07/11/14.
To read Esme Ward's article in full, click http://advisor.museumsandheritage.com/industry/museums-are-part-of-a-new-movement-by-cultural-organisations-to-become-more/

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  • 25 September 2015