Written by Michelle Armstrong, Chief Executive, Hearts & Minds
At Hearts & Minds we have a long track record of using therapeutic clowning to help people with dementia overcome feelings of helplessness, isolation and anxiety. Our Elderflowers programme, launched in 2001, uses professional performance skills in music, dance, storytelling and puppetry to deliver therapeutic clowning sessions to people living with dementia.
Our practitioners make sure they know the history of the person with dementia and then look out for changes in body language, eye contact and breathing, using all of this information together with their performance skills to give the person with dementia the opportunity to flourish.
Our Elderflowers regularly visit people living with dementia or dementia-related conditions in hospitals and residential care homes. Through these visits our practitioners began to realise that many people living with dementia are being cared for at home and that carers often suffer from anxiety, isolation and stress too.
In response to this we have developed a programme of workshops to help carers at home cope with the emotional strain of caring for a loved one with dementia. To develop the workshops in-depth focus groups and consultations were held across Scotland with the help of funding from the Bupa UK Foundation Caring for Carers Funding Programme.
Through these focus groups we found that family carers were under a huge amount of emotional strain and as a result, at times, they struggled to cope with the changes within their relationships with their loved-one. Caring for a loved one may lead to feelings of guilt, sadness, confusion or anger, however, it can be difficult to share these feelings with someone with dementia, leaving carers feeling very isolated. Following the focus groups, we launched the Hearts & Minds Remembering Yourself workshops earlier this year for dementia carers, to help them build their emotional resilience, strengthen and develop coping abilities and combat isolation.
At the workshops carers learn how to make playful creative connections with others and explore non-verbal and fun ways to communicate. Carers learn new pathways to communication, which allow them to have enriching, accepting and authentic engagements with the person they are caring for.
The aim is to support carers to become more confident and empowered in their interactions with their relative with dementia.
The workshop programme ran from April to September this year visiting Glasgow, Galashiels, Inverness, Haddington, Dalkeith, Dunfermline and Musselburgh.
For more information about Hearts & Minds, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.heartsminds.org.uk/carer. For more information about the Bupa UK Foundation, visit www.bupaukfoundation.org