15th August 2014 - Riverside Ward pre-visit
“This is my first visit to the site, my first experience of meeting and observing people within a clinical environment, and my first experience of dementia […]
While we wait I notice a number of small laminated signs with instructions taped to the ward walls…
‘Eat little and often
Have three small meals and 2-3 snacks daily
Try these snacks…
Scones and buns
Crackers and cheese
Build-up, Complan, or Recovery
‘Fortify your food with butter, margarine or cream to add extra calories’
‘Are you drinking enough?
To prevent de-hydration and constipation drink at least 6-8 cups of fluid daily’
I’m interrupted by the sound of a doorbell, after which a procession of elders enters the room.
A lady who once taught art, a married couple, a gentleman in a wheelchair being pushed by a nurse, another lady carefully supported on either side by two ambulance men, and a smartly dressed gentleman with bandaged arms, walking with the aid of two sticks. They slowly join the already-seated residents.
‘He’s been waiting since 8.30 this morning. He’s had nothing to eat or drink!’
A jam sandwich, neatly cut into quarters, is speedily brought for him.
The gentleman smiles and removes his trilby,
‘They told me to be ready for 8 o’clock. I've been sat there since then, waiting. I was sat down and going quite numb.’
‘Would you like a cup of tea?’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Do you want a cuppa?’
‘Oh yes please that would be nice.’
He turns to the lady he has been seated next to and smiles, ‘Aren't they nice here?’
She smiles back, and nods, then quickly raises her hand to cover her mouth.
‘Are you going to join in then?’
A number of people nod their heads.
‘Of course I’m joining in! I live on my own, you know. I lost my wife, and my daughter. I get ever so lonely. It’s nice to be in a bit of company.’
Today is an introduction to the Dementia & Imagination project and promotional banners are prominently displayed. I notice that apart from the title of the project, the word dementia isn't spoken.
I wonder how the participants understand their involvement in the project.
I wonder how the participants understand the connection between dementia and themselves.
I wonder how dementia is first diagnosed.
I wonder how dialogues about dementia are initiated with someone who has dementia.
‘Does anyone have any questions?’
‘What are we going to do?’ the lady who once taught art asks.
‘Today we've brought some objects to explore, objects that have a relevance to our own artistic practice. Hopefully these objects will begin a process in which we will together explore, think and talk about art, whilst also making art.’
‘Well I can tell it’s a shell. It’s a shell from the seashore, and that’s it isn’t it?’
‘Feels like china. Smooth like china. I’m getting poetic in my old age.’
‘Does it make you think of the seaside?’
‘No, it’s uneven.’
‘Smooth like china. I expected it to be heavier.’
‘With all the millions around, what made you choose that one?’
A gentleman is wiping his leg with a tissue and occasionally blowing out from his mouth, ‘I could do something with it,’ and he starts laughing. ‘It’s nice to see the inside of it,’ he concludes with a smile.
‘Do you want to see something else?’
‘No, but thank you anyway.’
Another object is passed to the gentleman here with his wife, ‘Are they someone’s teeth?’
Almost everyone laughs.
‘If you found that on the beach you’d throw it back wouldn't you?’
‘It’s half a possibility.’
A shell, a deer’s jawbone, a contemporary brightly-coloured cleaning device, a yellow feather, a bauble…
‘Are any of these objects art? Can any object be art? Can anything be art?’
‘No, I don’t think so. I don’t know why.’
‘What kind of art interests you?’
‘All sorts of things, I don’t know,’ laughs the lady who once taught art. ‘I can’t tell you.’
‘In the coming weeks would you be interested in exploring and making art?’
‘I imagine so.’
There is the sound of a doorbell.
22 August 2014 - Session 1 First Wave Intervention:
"It’s just before 2pm. The transport hasn't arrived yet. Some of the residents are waiting with us.
I don’t yet know how to be a participant as well as a research artist. I feel awkward, uncertain of my role, unusually nervous and hesitant about engaging. I stay well back for now, quietly collecting my creative data, and hiding behind my notebook.
I wonder how I will be able to introduce my camera into this environment, and if it will actually be appropriate for me to do so.
I think about observing, and being observed.
I think about the private, and the public.
While we wait I think about the categories listed on the AGCC Well-Being Observation Tool scoring sheet which is being used by the researchers during sections of the intervention to monitor each participant. I think about these observations, and the specific time procedures used for each note made.
A lady slowly crawls on all fours across the floor to where the tables have been set-up and takes a seat. She reaches her hand out to one of the intervention artists and asks her name. (Attention: Initiates or engages in conversation. Tick). The artist takes her hand, introduces herself and asks, ‘Are you well?’ Before the question is finished the lady has fallen asleep in the chair. (Disengagement: Sleeping. Tick).
A gentleman repeatedly reaches down and pulls at his shoelaces, grimacing. (Negative affect: Physical signs of agitation. Tick). A nurse comes over to him, ‘Do you want to go somewhere?
‘YES!’ he shouts. (Negative affect: Anger. Tick).
‘Would you like to move? Would you like to go to the toilet?’
‘Is that the same as a lavvy?’ he asks before visibly relaxing into the chair and chuckling to himself. (Pleasure: Relaxed body language, smiles, and laughs. Tick).
‘I don’t like sitting around and doing nothing, wasting my time,’ an elderly lady declares with dissatisfaction. She tuts loudly, frowns, and folds her arms tightly across her chest. (Negative affect: Physical signs of agitation. Tick).
A wife whispers to her husband, ‘You’re a bit brighter today aren't you?’
He randomly claps his hands, bangs the table with one of his slippers, yodels and then finally lets out a loud laugh. (Self-esteem: Non-verbal expression of pride. Tick).
His wife laughs too, ‘Just sit still a minute, [...]. Come on now, let go of my arm and eat your biscuit. Let go of my arm and eat your biscuit!’ She squeezes his hand and beams at him.(Self-esteem: Non-verbal expression of pride. Tick).
It’s now 3.02pm, and the transport is just arriving.
[…] I have a delayed emotional response after the first session. (Sadness: Behavioural signs of sadness. Tick)".