Dementia Awareness Workshops
In conjunction to developing the interactive art installations that fall under the I am still here project we are keen to share our knowledge and promote a wider understanding on dementia by delivering more compact workshop packages that can be offered to a variety of age groups.
We often take a very playful approach to the work that we devise, as we believe that a bit of humour can leave a long lasting impact even when discussing a subject matter often considered quite heavy.
Simple activities we’ve created in the past that we’ve presented at events such as Pint of Science and Kings College Alzheimer’s Open Day, have included the use of mirrors, Hama beads, exercises from the ‘Mini-Mental State Exam’, texts and even cake. A handful of elements we’ll be integrating into the installations are also easily transferable to the workshop environments.
Though the activities have previously mainly been presented to an adult audience, their playful nature would very well be received by a younger audience and can easily be tailored to different age groups.
Workshops can be tailored for an afternoon or be extended to a more comprehensive two-day session. Depending on the time frame and the audience age group, workshops may entail some or all of the following components; each section in itself also being tailored to fit the group we’re working with (i.e. simplified for a younger audience).
1. General Overviw
We’d like to offer a general over on dementia including:
To effectively communicate sensations associated with dementia, we aim for the activities to have a very direct impact on participants.
Below we’ve listed examples that will lend an idea of what types of activities might be integrated into a workshop. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and that we have a few more activities stacked away on our ideas shelf that can contribute to tailoring the perfect workshop programme for its given audience.
The Power of Storytelling
Good storytelling no doubt has the power to create great empathy by drawing its audience into its characters’ world. Having been inspired by many stories we’ve read around dementia, it’s an element we believe will bring great value to a workshop. This may consist of reading only one extract to discuss with the group alongside other activities being offered. The possibility of creating a more comprehensive session around storytelling alone is also an option.
Dexterity & Spatial Awareness Activity
Participants are asked to recreate a pattern by placing Hama beads on a pegboard. Mirrors are added in order to create disassociation from the task being performed as well as spatial confusion on the distance and direction the hand has to follow in order to place the bead on the correct peg to reproduce the desired image.
Handling small beads, this exercise looks at dexterity plus how a change in spatial awareness can often hinder someone with dementia to recognise and locate objects in three dimensions (e.g. making it harder to pick things up or place them in a given location such as placing a peg to hang up washing).
Taking inspiration from the fun children’s game Chocolate Boggle, participants are given cutlery to cut a wrapped chocolate bar whilst wearing oven mittens. The idea of the activity is to show how a decline in fine motor skills may interfere with a person with dementia’s ability to perform a simple task such as using a knife and a fork to eat.
Clock and Intersecting Pentagon
The clock and the intersecting pentagon are part of the ‘Mini-Mental State Exam’ (MMSE), which is widely used to test cognitive function in people with dementia. Here again mirrors are added to the tasks in order to make it more difficult to arrange the numbers as well as the lines to be drawn on the page. This mimics the problem of visual spatial organisation and orientation often experienced by people with dementia when completing these tasks.
Common errors in people that complete the test that have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease include: perseveration, counter-clockwise numbering, absence of numbers and irrelevant spatial arrangement.
Presenting different reading tasks we explore the diverse sensations people with dementia might face when reading a text including:
Download the Good Omens text as an example
The Art of Listening
Language is not only affected in written form, but can often also become more challenging when communicating verbally.
Playing different audio pieces will explain concepts such as the cocktail effect (loud environment where it’s difficult to decipher what’s being said); the difficulty in processing semantic sounds (e.g. misinterpretation of words); difficulty in deciphering altered sound patterns to a speech (e.g. sine wave or even different accents); and the confusion and discomfort that might arise due to misinterpreting the location a sound is coming from.
Adding a set of simple role-play exercises will help participants to sympathise how a person with dementia might feel whilst having a conversation and will also demonstrate examples on how to best include a person with dementia into a conversation.
Asking participants to write down step-by-step what actions need to be followed to making a cup of tea demonstrates very well how a simple every day task can turn into quite a complex one for a person with dementia.
Our taste preferences change throughout our life. With dementia there are additional contributing factors to taste preference changing, such as forgetting a learnt taste. As taste can often diminish, people with dementia may prefer stronger tasting spicy food and it’s been reported very often that sweet flavours become a favourite.
Baking a cake that is very sweet and one that tastes extraordinarily bland portrays the diminished sense of taste that can occur in dementia as well as the contrast to the sensation of a cake that might take preference in eating tendencies due to its highly flavoured sweet taste.
Stereogram Image (Magic Eye)
Difficulties in visual perception for people with dementia may include problems in distinguishing shapes and the ability of seeing contrast between colours as well as the colour itself. To demonstrate this phenomenon, we’ve created a book where the text and background first slowly merge into a similar colour and pattern scheme till the text can eventually only be deciphered in the same way a magic eye picture would.