New program to evaulate benefits of arts participation at home

People living at home with moderate to severe dementia will engage with professional artists who visit them with expenses met by their Home Care Package in a new HammondCare trial program.

Aop home 580Professional artists with an awareness of dementia will participate in the Arts on Prescription at Home (AoP@Home) research project that aims to improve wellbeing and social connectedness, funded by the Dementia Centre for Research Collaboration.

Centre for Positive Ageing lead researcher Dr Claire O’Connor said the trial will bring the successful Arts on Prescription program direct to the homes of people with dementia for one-on-one engagement in arts such as painting, acting, singing and dancing. Arts on Prescription has traditionally been offered in group-based settings requiring travel and this has meant people with moderate to severe dementia living at home may struggle to access the service.

“We believe AoP@Home could become a sustainable way to help people living at home with dementia to gain social engagement and a sense of achievement through participating in their preferred art form,” Dr O’Connor said.

She said most people with dementia live in the community with the support of family carers and often lose social connections.

“Over time, access to community services and maintaining hobbies becomes more difficult and people can become isolated, leading to poorer quality of life for both the person with dementia and their family carer,” she said.

A preliminary small study of AoP@Home, prepared before the trial, suggested the benefits would include improved social interaction, a sense of achievement and be a joyful distraction from everyday worries.

Under the trial, a $50,000 grant will support the program’s evaluation among a larger number of clients with dementia to have private sessions in their own home with professional artists and create original artworks.

It is hoped the trial will clear the way for more people with dementia and their family carers to participate in Arts on Prescription programs, providing much needed wellbeing and reablement as part of their Home Care Package.

Artists involved in the program will be required to undergo dementia awareness training with HammondCare’s Dementia Centre.

Hammondville independent living resident Helen Greenup (pictured) attends a regular Arts on Prescription painting class with HammondCare artist Annette Innis (pictured).

Helen said her two hour group art classes had become an important part of her life and that providing Arts on Prescription direct to people with dementia in their own homes would be a wonderful help for them.

“These classes take me away from the worries and thoughts that go through my head,” Helen said. “I find that after two hours of doing a painting class I am relaxed and recharged. It’s great.”

HammondCare Head of Research and Aged Care Clinical Services, Professor Chris Poulos, said the evidence base for arts supporting wellbeing is growing but more work is needed to establish it as a routinely available service.

“This is an exciting opportunity to bring joy into the homes of people living with dementia - a vital need highlighted by the Aged Care Royal Commission,” Prof. Poulos said.

He said the research project is a critical connection between what HammondCare has learned in foundational work and what is needed to implement AoP@Home into practice within existing service models and funding sources to establish a sustainable program.