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Arts in dementia care: beware of the silo building

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Topics: 
approaches to dementia care, arts and theatre, research

I am looking forward to the upcoming TAnDem Arts and Dementia Conference entitled "Research into Practice", which is taking place later in September 2016. I come from a healthcare and training background and am a keen supporter and advocate of arts in care (music especially). I look forward to improving my knowledge and confidence through the conference.  

I won't lie – though my feathers are always ruffled when I note that events promoting arts in dementia care are often viewed as being of particular interest to arts therapists, practitioners and artists, researchers. Others might be people living with dementia and their carers, and funders and commissioners of arts programmes. 

The irony in the absence of clinical, health and social care workers as key audience members and participants has got me riled up! The absence (perhaps exclusion) of those who deliver the most intimate, direct, continuous, medical and social support to people with dementia is a mistake. They are in fact the priority. For the uptake of arts in dementia to be implemented as part of practice requires their upskill. The good work of a music therapist, art therapist, ANYist! is easily undermined or undone by staff who lack an understanding of the theories, processes and impact of art interventions. Think about it. Whilst research for its own sake is beneficial to researchers and art practitioners, in order to see it really translate into practice requires a multi-disciplinary approach. We want to see these arts translate into support plans, care plans, funded care packages. The establishment of music, painting, craft, poetry as part of the management of pain, anxiety, and so forth, in dementia care.

Arts are not just a useful adjunct but a necessity for quality of life, personalised care and wellbeing. Without frontline health and care teams engagement in conferences like this we can be assured that arts, creativity, even assistive technology will always be relegated to the periphery of traditional care settings. It is a mistake that costs people with dementia and their carers dearly. 

Hoping to see frontline staff at this conference. Let's all learn more about how to enhance music and creative arts approaches to care so people living with dementia can flourish. 

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