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The transformation of relationships between people living with dementias

Dr Andrea Capstick (Bradford Bradford) explain her participatory film-making project in long-term care settings with people with dementia.
The main study that I carried out was one that was looking at whether participatory filmmaking with people with dementia could improve social participation and well-being. And this was a study that was carried out with 10 people in long-term care. And their average age was mid 80s. And at the beginning of the study, they were generally quite socially marginalised and excluded so when we started visiting the care environment, we’d go and find that people were either on their own in their flat, in their individual flat or, they might be sitting in the lounge with the TV on, but not actually doing very much.
We wanted to do something that was individualised to each person and we started to work with them by asking about what they would like to make a film about, if they had the opportunity to do that. And we found that everybody wanted to make a film about their own life story. People were very engaged in the filmmaking process and that when we– one of our ways of assessing the process and whether it was having benefits for people was to film them when they were watching their own film. And we found high levels of engagement in their own films, but also that they really enjoyed watching each other’s films. And that they started to form friendships and relationships on that basis.
And in some of the films, you can actually hear the participants talking to each other about what’s appearing on the screen because we recorded their voices to use for voiceover commentary in the film. And we found that the staff who were working in the care environment, also became very engaged in the process and that they found out things that they hadn’t known previously about the people who were taking part. That meant that they then had more topics of conversation and they could facilitate conversations between small groups of people more successfully because they had more insight into their life history.
I think that arts-based activities can enhance the relationships between people with dementia in care homes because it has the potential to introduce new ways of relating to each other. I think that when particularly, the activities got a biographical component to it, it can lead to doing this thing that Arthur Frank calls amplifying the voices of people with dementia. It gives them some of their identity back. And along with that, their self-esteem and their confidence in communicating with other people because they feel that they have something to say. And I think it’s just a different way of relating so people would–
if we were doing a storytelling activity, people would contribute to each other’s storytelling and it wasn’t necessarily biographically or chronologically accurate, but it became a way of them developing a sense of community, a group identity.

Watch Dr Andrea Capstick (Senior Lecturer in Dementia Studies, University of Bradford) explain how arts-based practices – in this case film making – has the power to transform the relationships not only between care staff and care home residents, but also between the residents themselves.

Learn how the research study that she led investigated whether the process biographical film making could improve social participation and wellbeing, and hear about some of the outcomes that the study produced.

If you know somebody living with dementia in long-term social care, how do you think that they would feel or respond to being involved in a creative project such as this? How do you think that their story could create an impact in your local community? Please share your thoughts, taking care not to reveal the identity of the individual.

CREDITS We would like to thank you to the University of Bradford for providing the supplementary footage from its for this video.
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Dementia and the Arts: Sharing Practice, Developing Understanding and Enhancing Lives

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