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A Delve into Dalemead Over The Years

As we begin our Autumn/Winter programme this November, we think back on our partnership over the years with one of our most special partners - Dalemead Care Home

Talitha Arts has had the absolute pleasure of being partnered with Dalemead Dementia Care-Home for the past 8 years, over which time we have run a multitude of programmes, one-off events, performances and themed workshops. It has been wonderful to develop and deepen our partnership over the years, and to have had the honour and opportunity to work with a number of residents over many years. We have brought our dedicated Talitha Team past and present, performances, and live musicians to the home, so we wanted to celebrate the partnership and take a trip down memory lane on various projects and the history of our work with Dalemead…

We began our story with Dalemead Care-Home in 2015. Since then, we have run consistent programmes at the home (with the exception of time away during the pandemic).

Sarah Withey, the long standing Activities Organiser at Dalemead, shares:

"At Dalemead we have 46 residents who are all living with some form of Dementia to some extent. Talitha gives a wonderful opportunity for all of those residents to enjoy themselves and feel like they belong. Every session is jam packed full of laughter, joy and opportunities to be engaged in creative activities".

At Talitha Arts, we take great care in working with those living with Dementia. We understand and appreciate how confusing and isolating the experience can be for those diagnosed, as well as their families and loved ones, and recognise this in our approach to training our practitioners. In 2019, our founder, Amanda Root said:

"We recognise how vital it is to build connection and relationship for those living with cognitive and/or physical impairment, and we strive to create opportunities for individual affirmation as well interaction with the group. We hope that each person will feel they are part of a Talitha ‘gang’, that they are safe, and that what they contribute to sessions is heard and valued"

This is something that our team works hard to achieve every time we work with Dalemead. We endeavour to create a session full of activities that help connect residents to themselves, their memories, to the Talitha team and to each other.

Over the years we have trained many practitioners in the Talitha approach and trauma informed learning to ensure teams have a shared language and understanding when it comes to working in a care home setting. Rebecca Mondadori, long-standing Talitha Practitioner shares:

"Having taken part in over 50 workshops at Dalemead I [and the Team] have understood how maintaining meaningful activities and connections are so important to the residents and also their families".

Rebecca shared with us her favourite memory working at Dalemead:

One of my favourites was the film activity when we got lots of giant cardboard cutouts which I have of film stars like Audrey Hepburn, Marylin ect. We had a large old worn leather suitcase filled with feather boas , top hats , bowler hats , fake large cigars and glam glasses. The residence at Dalemead loved it and so did the staff. We played old tunes and everyone dressed up. We even had old cinema tickets printed out . Many of the residents just got up and danced. It was a most joyful moment”

The Talitha Approach we apply to our workshops at Dalemead, and across the board with our other partners, is key to the consistency and success of our work. Forging spaces and activities that promote connection and cohesion is what makes Talitha’s workshops so unique. Sarah shares:

"The Talitha practitioners have created such a huge sense of community within our residency at Dalemead, whether we are doing activities for movement, singing, reminiscence, or craft, everybody feels fully involved."

At Talitha, because we work in a person-centered way, we return to certain activities time and time again that have proven positive results. Some of these have been a consistent part of the structure woven into a Talitha workshop at Dalemead since the very beginning, including our "Welcome Song".

Dr Fiona Costa, Talitha Talk speaker on ‘Using Music To Bring Joy Into The Lives Of People With Dementia’, conducted research that included a six-month pilot study which explored the use of mnemonic strategies for the recall and use of functional language in people with dementia. The study consisted of weekly music sessions which engaged residents from two care homes specialising in the care of people with dementia.

This research has inspired us to begin every session since 2015 with our ‘Welcome Song’- a simple tune, with simple lyrics and movements to follow along. FIona Costa confirms in her research how a musical greeting like this can create familiarity for those living with dementia:

‘The first song introduced to the residents was based on the simple greeting, Hello. The average time taken to sing a complete version of this song unprompted in Care Home One was 2.5 sessions, with a range of between one and six sessions; in Care Home Two, it was 3.75 sessions, with a range of between one and nine sessions.’ (1).

Over the years with the ‘Welcome Song’ we have seen both within our 6 week programmes and over longer periods of time when we return for programmes, the way in which residents become familiar with the song, associating it with comfort, joy and togetherness. Often, even at week 1 of a programme, some residents will immediately start to sing it with us, despite a gap of many months since our last visit. We always see progress from week 1 to 6 in residents engagement with the ‘Welcome Song’. Sarah shares her experience, being present day to day in the home, of the impact of music in our workshops:

‘Every session starts with the welcome song which we all sing together. The other day I went into one of the lounges and the residents were all in the middle of singing the welcome song without having been prompted. I joined in; it felt very special that the joy of Talitha sessions had spilled out into the resident’s day to day lives.’

Dr Fiona says, on her findings with a similar ‘hello’ song;

"Their ability to learn, recall and retain a new song gave momentary feelings of achievement and self-confidence, as well as improved access to words that, in some cases, were no longer part of their day-to-day vocabulary. These wider effects, even if short-term, nurtured a sense of wellbeing which was expressed through laughter and smiling. Each participant responded positively and with obvious enjoyment." (1)

At each Talitha session we conduct our ‘Hello on the Drum’ in which each participant is given the opportunity to share their name and create a beat on the drum that is echoed back to them by a Talitha practitioner. We always make sure they know there is no right or wrong and that whatever they bring to the exercise, no matter how big or small, will be celebrated and right for them in that moment.

We see such joy and creative expression develop over the course of programmes as the drum becomes a familiar resource and exercise to become involved in. Giving the participants a moment to be heard, seen and celebrated is incredibly rewarding for them”

- Becky Gibbs, Therapeutic Arts Director, Talitha Arts

Over the years, as we have conducted regular programmes, we have also ran special events and sessions. This has included “Me Time” Choir back in 2019,

"The choir are exceptional singers and very relational by nature, they effortlessly integrated with participants"

- Amanda Root

Ending programmes on a high with collaborative work is a fantastic way to bring the work to a close and give the residents something special to connect to. Similarly a performance of a play -The Other Pond was delivered in the home. The Other Pond was written by playwright Nick Warburton to be used within a dementia setting. It was a beautifully crafted play which gently stimulates memory, humour and creative engagement whilst complimenting the interactive nature of Talitha’s activities.

‘‘The Other Pond’ is a play about two sisters trying to remember what happened to them when they visited the park as children. The story is a simple one: the sisters briefly lose each other before being reunited. A lot of the words and images in ‘The Other Pond’ are repeated. When this happens, it might feel as if we're both remembering them, and experiencing them for the first time".

- Nick Warburton, Playwright

Sadly when 2020 came and the pandemic struck, Talitha were unable to enter the care-home to conduct our in-person workshops or deliver further work with ‘The Other Pond’. However we kept in close contact with Sarah, the Activities Organiser, so that as soon as we were able, we could continue our partnership and run our therapeutic arts work once again, for the residents. Once we could safely return to the care-home, we have delivered a multitude of programmes, training programmes and one-off themed sessions at the home.

Of all of our partnerships and groups we work with, we have found Dalemead to be a fantastic space to train new practitioners in the Talitha Approach. The space allows for a safe learning environment as the content of sessions remains light and energising while deeply rooted in the Talitha structure and therapeutic approach. If a trainee-practitioner can confidently engage the room at Dalemead and gain experience giving clear instructions, owning a space in other settings will be an easier step.

During our post pandemic work we have had some wonderful experiences with the residents and have had brilliant feedback - not only from them, but their families and from Sarah, the Activities coordinator.

"The progression has been fantastic, the residents have all come on leaps and bounds and every session they build on the last one…The meaningful activities have really helped to unlock conversations, precious memories, connections and past skills and experiences, as well as developing new skills. One lady who has low self esteem has blossomed before our eyes. She found her voice within the group and is now speaking with confidence and ease"

- Sarah Withey

"As one of our most long-standing and special partners, it has been a true joy to develop and grow our work at Dalemead Care Home post-pandemic, from enabling trainee-practitioners to shadow a full programme, to ensuring that the participant's "voices" are heard - devising creative ways in which they can share their feedback within their own abilities and comfortability."

Jenna Thorne, Executive & Artistic Director, Talitha Arts

Here is some feedback from the residents after our most recent programme:

‘Lovely mixing with everyone’

‘Jolly and relaxing’

‘Very enjoyable, happy people’

‘One of the best places to come to’

‘Thank you for all the fun’.

‘You’ve all been so nice. A lovely thing to come to’

Sarah shared:

"every Talitha session it is clear to me how much the residents' well-being has benefited from being part of the afternoon. I would thoroughly recommend Talitha Arts to any care home or day centre that are offered this wonderful opportunity, the workshops have impacted our residents at Dalemead Care-Home in such a hugely positive way. We are so grateful to Talitha for this wonderful opportunity”

- Sarah Withey, Dalemead Care Home.

We are so grateful for our long standing and ongoing partnership with Dalmead Dementia Care-Home and that the work provided by Talitha over the years has continued to be of benefit. It is always such a pleasure and a joy to conduct our workshops and programmes at Dalemead, as they always meet us with open arms and make us feel at home. The residents are so wonderful to work with and it's been fantastic to see the impact of every programme - and how over time, the creative arts can open up so much for them and "unlock precious memories".

We look forward to our time at Dalemead this month and into December, including our plans to bring Nastee Chapel, a folk band who work closely with Talitha and ShakeItUp Theatre, an improvised Shakespeare Company, into the home to work collaboratively alongside our structure. There is so much to be gained in this wonderful partnership and we at Talitha Arts look forward to all that is in store for us together into 2024 and beyond.

Article sources:

1. 'A Report of a Pilot Study Exploring the Use of a Mnemonic Strategy for the Recall and Use of Functional Language in People with Dementia': HSOA Journal of Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases, Fiona Costa, Adam Ockelford and Caitlin Shaughnessy.

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