So, the Olympic Opening Ceremony had it all! The ultimate co-produced event!
Who would have thought? The Queen parachuting in by helicopter, Mr Bean on keyboard, a highly inclusive cast, the construction workers forming the guard of honour… GB is REALLY good at innovation and creativity and we must extend this energy and self-belief into finding solutions to the current problems in health and social care…
Week 9 of our “in my shoes” series, looking at dementia from different perspectives, continues today with someone who is taking exactly this approach. I love “Ladder to the Moon” – how can it fail to help people achieve their dreams with a name like that?
Chris Gage and his team enable services to bring joy and excitement to older people’s lives through creativity.
And Chris is looking abroad (to Hearthstone Alzheimer Care, USA) to see what we can learn from others…
I run Ladder to the Moon, a social enterprise developing organisations’ and individuals’ ability to build wellbeing and happiness in care by using creativity, coaching and training. My journey to this point was through working as a community theatre director and facilitator. By developing a specialism in dementia care I have become one of the ever-growing number of people passionate about creating lasting change in the culture of care.
Last month, I went back to my roots in arts interventions with people living with dementia. I travelled to Boston to consult with Hearthstone Alzheimer Care on one of the world’s largest eco-psycho-social dementia research project, funded by the US government. The eco-psycho-social tag describes the project’s remit to research non-drugs-based interventions. More specifically, the project will track the impact of “scripted improvisations” on the engagement and wellbeing of people with dementia within residential care settings.
I was first involved in phase one of the project 18 months ago, and returned this time at the launch of phase two, to contribute to the model of intervention and develop improvised scripts over the next couple of years. Two of the actors with whom I collaborated will be coming over to the UK at the end of August to experience the work that Ladder is pioneering in this country, as part of the knowledge exchange between our companies.
At Ladder to the Moon, we’re passionate about the quality of life experienced by those living with dementia. We know, from working in the field over the past eight years, that using creativity and the arts, in particular interactive drama, has an enormous impact on people with dementia. We know it has a significant contribution to make to wellbeing, delivering fantastic outcomes for people accessing services, staff and carers and that this has significant health benefits. One of the key things that I think creativity brings is that it enables people to make a meaningful contribution to those around them: not just to receive, but also to give of themselves.
At Ladder to the Moon, our primary focus is on transferring knowledge, skills, beliefs and behaviours to staff teams. This project is a bit of a distraction from the core work, but at the same time, makes a huge contribution to the main mission. So when the opportunity arose to work with Hearthstone to build the evidence base around creativity and dementia, I was very keen to get involved. Many people know that dementia arts work is highly impactful, making a significant difference to wellbeing, but it is often challenging to get the work commissioned. Positive results from a large scale research project like Heathstone’s, running over 18 sites and 450 participants, will make it much easier to get creative arts interventions commissioned in dementia care.
This is crucial for the UK. America faces a number of the same challenges that we do–an ageing population, a drugs-based approach to treating dementia- but they also have a much more established market in social care. That is to say, people are much more accustomed to paying for the care they get and paying for the different elements of that care. By contrast, in the UK we face perhaps more challenges in getting this kind of work commissioned. In the US, it is in a way simpler, because if you’re offering something that people want, then people will choose to buy it. As a result, I think the robust evidence-base generated from this US study may be even more beneficial to us here in the UK than in America itself.
Because Hearthstone homes include and focus on excellent non-biomedical care, their homes are always full and have a waiting list. People are engaged in a range of things that interest them and that they want to be doing, on a day-to-day basis, irrespective of their experience of dementia. I believe that as this aspect of care grows in standing, we’re going to be seeing the same more and more in the UK. People are going to be enabled to live much more meaningful lives when they access services. They will be engaged in the things they are interested in and make contributions to the community they live in. As such, everyone will be enabled to live a flourishing life, at every stage of the dementia journey.
All text and images © Ladder to the Moon