Finding the safe haven for a community full of potential

Spalding socially-engaged artist Carol Parker (back) leads a Memory Lane arts and crafts group for people living with dementia at Mayfields Extra Care Housing, Boston.  Photo by Tim Wilson.
Spalding socially-engaged artist Carol Parker (back) leads a Memory Lane arts and crafts group for people living with dementia at Mayfields Extra Care Housing, Boston. Photo by Tim Wilson.
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It was Lincolnshire Free Press feature writer Jean Hodge who told readers that “art has the power to get a man back in his shed when he has lost his confidence”.

There are an estimated 12,000 people aged over 65 with dementia in Lincolnshire, according to Lincolnshire County Council adult care and health services department, with almost 3,000 of them living in the South Holland, Boston, Bourne, Deepings and Stamford areas.

Carol Parker, an artist based in Spalding, wants to take advantage of Dementia Awareness Week this week by encouraging carers, community workers and GPs involved with people having been diagnosed with dementia to help them find purpose, identity and communicate through arts and crafts.

“There is an increasing body of evidence to show that engagement in the arts for older people improves health, wellbeing and quality of life, reduces rural and social isolation, increases self-esteem and fosters a stronger sense of identity,” Carol said.

“Both GPs and Clinical Commissioning Groups for Lincolnshire East and Lincolnshire South areas realised that dementia in the county was on the increase, but without the services in place to cope with it.

“At the time, GPs were reluctant to diagnose dementia because they had nowhere to signpost people to all the services available to them.

Carol Parker with two members of the Mayfields Memory Lane Group.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

Carol Parker with two members of the Mayfields Memory Lane Group. Photo by Tim Wilson.

“But now all the services are in place, including a dementia exercise and cafe at Tonic Health (Broadgate House, Westlode Street) in Spalding every Wednesday between 1.30pm and 3.30pm.

“My role therefore is to co-create arts classes to empower and enable inclusive and accessible arts sessions for those living with dementia and their carers.

“This is done by encouraging the formation of connected communities through collaboration with partners who, together, put on 11-week art classes featuring a broad range of art forms, including clay, felt making, collaging, sculpture, large-scale weaving, textiles, print and paper craft.”

The model for what Carol wants to replicate in Spalding can be found in Boston where a Memory Lane group for people with dementia, carers and families takes place at Mayfields care home, supported by Boston Big Local community fund, Boston Mayflower housing association and Boston Borough Council.

What Memory Lane does is to provide a regular opportunity for people with dementia to meet others, give them control and the opportunity for free choice in what to do, stimulate memories and to escape temporarily from a very challenging everyday life

Carol Parker, a socially-engaged artist based in Spalding

Carol’s workshops, attended by an average of ten people aged between 56 and 84, have now been rolled out to Spalding, Sleaford and Grantham.

Carol said: “I was asked by Boston Mayflower last summer whether I would go in to Mayfields and deliver arts sessions for people with demntia and their carers, to start in September 2015.

“They worked amazingly well and when Boston Big Local saw what we were doing, they gave us more money to run more sessions.

“I go in and make art with the people who are there, but there isn’t really a typical session as it depends on who comes and what they want to do.

Felt making, collaging, weaving and textiles are some of the activities available at the Mayfields Memory Lane Group.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

Felt making, collaging, weaving and textiles are some of the activities available at the Mayfields Memory Lane Group. Photo by Tim Wilson.

“What Memory Lane does is to provide a regular opportunity for people with dementia to meet others, give them control and the opportunity for free choice in what to do, stimulate memories and to escape temporarily from a very challenging everyday life.”

The work being done by Carol and the Memory Lane group was identified in Spalding last year when the Alzheimer’s Society held a series of sessions on the effects of dementia, a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or communication.

Nasim Minhas, services manager for Lincolnshire Alzheimer’s Society, said: ”Relatives of people with dementia often say that it can be really frustrating when someone doesn’t want to change their clothes, have a shower or sleep at night.

“This is especially true if the person doesn’t accept that there is anything wrong with them.

“Understanding how they are trying to make sense of the world and how they feel about the losses they are experiencing can help relatives to be more patient and cope better.

“This, in turn, helps the person with dementia to be more content and help othes understand better the changes that occur as dementia progresses.”

John Hayes MP with members and staff of a Dementia Support Group at Tanglewood Cedar Falls Care Home, Spalding, with matron Nike Ajewole.  Photo by Tim Wilson.

John Hayes MP with members and staff of a Dementia Support Group at Tanglewood Cedar Falls Care Home, Spalding, with matron Nike Ajewole. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust is marking Dementia Awareness Week by encouraging people to volunteer as someone who comes alongside people living with dementia in their community.

Jack Wakefield (18), an A-level student at Spalding Grammar School, has found time aside from the pressure of his studies to volunteer at a dementia and exercise cafe run by Tonic Health in Spalding.

“I want to study psychology and become a clinical psychologist because I want to make people’s lives better,” Jack said.

“The dementia cafe seemed like a really good way of getting some experience in that area and it’s just nice to go out and use my time to make other people happy.”

Efforts to raise awareness of dementia in the community also have the support of South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes who, during Dementia Awareness Week 2014, said: “Though many of us think we know what dementia is, there is still an awful lot to learn.”

For more details on creative classes for dementia in Spalding, call Spalding Health and Wellbeing on 01775 725059.