As a movement, arts and health have gained more gravitas over the last decade and art interventions are considered to have positive effects on health and well-being. It is important that studies should include first person accounts from people living with dementia and that evaluations of cultural arts interventions should also include a larger network such as staff and caregivers. The aim of this study was to qualitatively explore the experience and impact of a visual art programme for care home residents with dementia from the perspective of the resident, care staff, and artist team.
A visual art intervention which incorporated art-appreciation and art-making was run in two North Wales care homes. Data were collected from 21 intervention participants living with dementia through semi-structured interviews which were supplemented by field notes; from eleven members of care staff from the participating care homes through open-ended questionnaires and semi-structured interviews; and from group discussions and reflective diaries from the artist and two artist volunteers running the intervention.
The three groups all spoke of the positive impact involvement in a visual art intervention can have on people living with dementia. The participants’ enjoyment was identified in all groups and other benefits identified included improvements in mood, communication / interaction, concentration, independence, confidence, and self-esteem. However, perhaps the most important impact of the intervention was that it helped staff and family members realise the remaining abilities of residents, of whom they had previously underestimated what they could achieve. This clearly exemplifies the excess disability imposed on care home residents and the results of this study have implications for improving the day-to-day life for care home residents living with dementia.