The Role of Arts in Mitigating the Impact of Dementia




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Dec 02, 2017
by Salzburg Global Seminar
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The Role of Arts in Mitigating the Impact of Dementia

Participants explore how the arts can lessen the impact of dementia and maintain communication Left to right - Paul Camic and Sebastian Crutch discuss the relationship between arts and dementia

The role of arts and culture can never be underestimated. The sector acts as a significant source of influence in many areas of society. On the fourth day of the Salzburg Global session, Changing Minds: Innovations in Dementia Care and Dementia-Friendly Communities, participants considered how the arts could mitigate the impact of dementia, improve communication, and enhance quality of life.

They were guided in their discussions by clinical health psychologist Paul Camic and neuropsychologist Sebastian Crutch. The conversation began with Camic providing an overview of the relationship between arts and dementia in the UK. Participants heard how various artists came together to undertake projects with people with dementia.

Crutch then reflected on the work of William Utermohlen, an American painter. After being diagnosed with dementia, he began painting a series of self-portraits. This enabled artistic reflection and exploration of what he was living with. Arts isn’t just a form of intervention, according to Crutch, it’s a part of life.

During the panel discussion, participants were introduced to several positive examples of art being used effectively. This included a nod to BBC Radio 3’s Why Music? residency, which saw presenters explore choral music and how it can help improve the lives of people with dementia.

Camic showed a clip from the film Alive Inside - A Story of Music and Memory, which reinforced this view. It highlighted how one elderly man became reinvigorated when listening to personalized music and found it easier to communicate. He benefited from a charity called Music & Memory.

In response to this clip, one participant asked whether there was potential to produce a similar film concentrating on the work taking place in developing countries.

Another participant said that if the film was shown in her country, members of the public would find it hard to believe what they saw.

She suggested the film could be used as a tool for raising further awareness and helping people with dementia.

Arts can play a role in breaking down the stigma surrounding dementia, providing communities further opportunities to engage with people with dementia.

Art programs should ensure people at different stages of dementia are included, one participant argued. One way to fix this could be to embed arts and music in the daily care of people living with dementia.

The session, Changing Minds: Innovations in Dementia Care and Dementia-Friendly Communities, is part of Salzburg Global Seminar multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation in the 21st Century. This year’s session is held in partnership with The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice and The Mayo Clinic, with support from the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Tsao Foundation, and the University of Texas.