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Dementia: Engaging Societies Around the World 24 th Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease International Singapore, 25-28 th March 2009. Enabling success in creative expression Hilary Lee MSc, OTR Chair, The Society for the Arts In Dementia Care (Australia) Inc.,

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Enabling success in creative expression hilary lee msc otr
Dementia: Engaging Societies Around the World24th Conference of Alzheimer’s Disease InternationalSingapore, 25-28th March 2009

Enabling success in creative expression

Hilary Lee MSc, OTR

Chair, The Society for the Arts In Dementia Care (Australia) Inc.,

Researcher and Co Developer, Dementia Care Australia

Art makes the invisible visible paul klee
Art makes the invisible visiblePaul Klee

What is success in creative expression
What is success in creative expression?

  • Enabling expression of spirit and soul

  • Facilitating communication in new ways

  • Providing a connection with others

  • Boosting wellbeing, counteracting depression

  • Enabling the sharing of wisdom

  • Providing meaning in life

The tapestry
The Tapestry

  • A grant from a community arts council funded the art worker to facilitate project

  • Local high school invited to be part of the project

  • Teaching session to orientate the students

The process
The Process

  • Local film makers were invited to make a film about this project

  • 15 students visited 15 residents for 2 hours/week over 8 weeks.

  • Students paired up with residents

  • The students reminisced with the residents to find their cherished memories and dreams

  • They then worked with them to weave their stories into the tapestry

The key to success
The key to success

Holidays with my family
Holidays with my family’

I always wanted a rocking horse
‘I always wanted a rocking horse’

One of my eight jaguar cars
‘One of my eight Jaguar cars’

Evaluating the project
Evaluating the project

Methods used:

  • Wellbeing profiles

  • Functional assessment

  • Weekly diary of observations

  • Students completing a feedback questionnaire

  • Informal interviews with residents

The creative expressive abilities assessment tool
The Creative-Expressive Abilities Assessment Tool

  • Observe clients’ creative abilities in a systematic way and monitor any changes over time

  • Have a document with reliable results for reporting in meetings

  • Staff/volunteers were surprised and delighted by the abilities demonstrated by the clients

  • Staff inspired to find new ways to enable more independence

  • Staff experienced a desire to ‘raise the bar’ in dementia care (

Improvements in wellbeing
Improvements in wellbeing

Specific improvements to wellbeing:

  • Increased ability to communicate

  • Greater ability to respond to people and situations

  • Increased ability to express thoughts and emotions

  • Became helpful towards others

  • Deep pleasure and enjoyment

  • Greater sense of purpose

Improvements in function
Improvements in function

Improved ability to

  • recognise their picture

  • hold and operate the Rumpelstiltskin tool

  • follow instructions

Unveiling ceremony
Unveiling Ceremony

Ceramic stories art club
Ceramic Stories Art Club

  • A grant was sought to fund the artist, the project co-ordinator, and art materials for scrapbooking and ceramics

  • The aim of the project was to promote wellbeing in people with dementia who had shown some signs of illbeing or depression


  • Invitation, welcome and introduction

  • Name badges (memory aids)

  • Started with morning tea (to facilitate conversation, friendships)

  • Life story albums showing themes to stimulate the club members’ dreams, memories and feelings

Flora the freedom fighter
Flora the freedom fighter

The secret ingredients
The secret ingredients

Spark of life applied to the arts
Spark of Life applied to the arts

Key principles to success:

  • Lead by following

  • The three step rule

  • Shift, share, shine

  • Use of rituals

Key principles for facilitators
Key principles for facilitators

  • Shifting focus

  • Sharing their heart

  • Shining their light

Use of rituals
Use of rituals

  • Inviting ritual

  • Greeting and welcoming ritual

  • Opening ritual

  • Ending ritual

Outcomes wellbeing
Outcomes: Wellbeing


  • Creative expression through different media provides a powerful way to promote wellbeing, satisfaction with life, friendship, and being able to express their true selves

  • The art work that people with dementia produce gives us new insights to the abilities and potential within each person

  • The skills of the facilitators are vital to the success of creative expression programs

For further information
For further information