Autumn is here again, and so too is the National Day of Arts in Care Homes (24 September) – an opportunity to highlight this important sector.
This last crazy 18 months, the media has turned its attention to care homes more than it has for many years. There’s been empathy with residents unable to go out during the pandemic or to see family and friends, as if their isolation came to embody all our experiences of lockdown. There have been controversies over government policy in the early days of the pandemic, and more recently over staff vaccination. There’s also the debate over long-needed reforms to the care sector. And of course there have been many sad losses, as care home residents have been some of the most likely to succumb to Covid. Throughout all this, activity providers within care homes have gone on creating imaginative ways for residents to spend time.
Technology helped during lockdown (as it helped us all) and it will go on helping. Once again many homes have now opened their doors again to singers, entertainers and other outside activity providers. But arts within the home or day centre also remain central.
It’s great to see and hear how arts help draw residents together, open up conversations and boost mood. They focus on living in the moment, which is particularly important for people who have dementia and may struggle with past or future. Arts absorb people’s minds for a time. Many activities can be connected to events in the calendar, like Remembrance Day or sporting events, so they help create a structure for residents’ lives through the year.
It’s the participatory element in arts in care homes which I think is so important. When many residents have become or are too ill, frail or disabled to do most practical tasks, the opportunity to create or to sing is all the more precious. Maybe this is particularly true with art and craft, which are all about experimenting, exploring and freedom. This is helpful when residents all have different needs and abilities, as activities can be flexible to involve as many people as possible. Art and craft are also all about bright colours and different materials, important sensory stimuli.
This year I’ve marked the National Day of Arts in Care Homes by producing an activity ideas resource which has been requested by 120 care homes and facilities across the UK. As Medley focuses on combining art, music and nature for wellbeing, the resource has suggestions for music and songs to listen to, ideas of ways to connect with nature, and three art & craft activities, all on the one theme – movement and dance, in line with the Year of Moving And Grooving campaign of the National Association of Activity Providers, who run the National Day. And this is just one of so many different ways people are marking the Day.
The Year of Moving And Grooving is a vital campaign to promote physical activity in care homes. But I think the focus on movement also highlights how the arts open up life and free people as they use their imaginations. Music, art, dance, drama can all transport us to different places, while they also ground us to enjoy the present.
It would be great if you’d like to share any thoughts or experiences on arts in care homes in Medley’s Facebook group Thank you https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002