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Towards a shift in understanding and recognition of value

Fergus Walsh explores the potential for a shift in how we talk and think about dementia based on research that overlaps science with the arts.
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The term dementia is still a taboo in so many senses. It’s a bit like cancer was back in the 1960s, something that people whispered under their voice. And it’s something I think people don’t understand, dementia. They prefer, because they fear it so much, not to look into it. And when faced with somebody who has dementia, it becomes an immediate barrier, a brick wall where they lack the understanding because they lack the knowledge about the condition and the vast array of different symptoms that a diagnosis of dementia can present. And that’s what we need to do. We need to educate the public so that they understand it more.
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And with understanding, you then will have less fear because it is the most feared condition among adults– more fear than cancer, more fear than stroke, heart disease. And we need to address that lack of understanding, that lack of knowledge, and fear it less and understand it more. And we have to start accepting that when people get a diagnosis of dementia, that is not them put in a box. It’s a horrible diagnosis to have. But we have to start seeing that people can live with dementia and still be creative with dementia. And dementia is always about what is lost, what is gone. And obviously, we focus on that.
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But we also have to focus on what is retained, what is still there. And what is still there and the creativity that is still there, for want of a better word, has to be and must be cherished. The intersection of science and art at Created Out of Mind is impressive because very often, it is art that is the add-on. It’s the thing that comes at the end in a project that is led by scientists. But here, from the ground up, it was always art and science together. And so I’ve seen that, and that’s impressive.
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And it’s incredibly impressive that Wellcome has supported a project that I don’t think anybody else would have, because it’s looking at something which, in a sense, you can’t, as a sort of bean counter, add up the value that this is going to give. And yet, you can see the value it gives in the people who engage. The people with dementia who engage with Created Out of Mind– it’s trying to, in a sense, put a value on that. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, and yet, it’s trying to do that.

Fergus Walsh explores the potential for a shift in the way that we talk and think about dementia based on research that overlaps science with the arts, placing an equal emphasis on both.

He explains:

  • How dementia is still often perceived as a taboo which is fuelled by fear, causing barriers between people

  • How the arts should not be seen as secondary to science in dementia research, but rather as complementary areas of investigation – and how this is still a novel route for conducting research

  • Some of the difficulties of quantifying the value of such projects, even though the value of them can be clearly seen

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Dementia and the Arts: Sharing Practice, Developing Understanding and Enhancing Lives

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