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Background and Objectives: Arts activities can improve social connectedness and foster reciprocity between people living
with dementia and their caregivers. The extent to which the arts can help shape attitudes towards dementia remains unclear.
This paper explores the impact of a 12-week visual arts program “Dementia and Imagination” on the attitudes of family
and professional caregivers through a mixed-methods longitudinal investigation, underpinned by a conceptual framework
of the arts in dementia care.
Research Design and Methods: One hundred and forty-six family and professional caregivers were recruited across
three settings in England and Wales (residential care homes, a county hospital, and community venues). Quantitative
and qualitative data on caregivers’ attitudes and perceptions of the impact of the arts program were collected through
interviews at three time points.
Results: Thematic analysis identified four themes shared across the caregivers: (1) Recognizing capabilities, (2) Social
connectedness, (3) Improvements to well-being, and (4) Equality and personhood. Two further themes were distinct to family
caregivers: (5) Duration of the effects of the art program, and (6) Enriched perspective. The final theme Inspiring professional
development was distinct to the professional caregivers. The quantitative analysis found no effect for caregivers’ attitude
change over time. Family caregivers scored significantly lower than professional caregivers at each of the three time points.
Discussion and Implications: Art programs have the potential to make visible the capabilities of the people living with
dementia, enabling caregivers to see the person behind the condition. This study highlights practice implications for future
implementation, such as the role of the arts in dementia care education.

Keywords

  • Dementia, Art, Intervention, Attitudes, Mixed-methods, Longitudinal, Qualitative
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1114
Number of pages12
JournalGerontologist
Volume60
Issue number6
Early online date24 May 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020

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