Care Home Project – first sessions

Care Home Project – first sessions and figuring things out

We have just completed the first session in each of the four care homes.  The response was amazing with everyone engaging and embracing the idea of working as collectives to make some great work together.  We used the same ideas, to explore creativity, in each care home and learned how each place responds positively but with their own unique approach.  We had two activity ideas as starting points for the whole group to work together – starting the first layers of a large collage and using a ten minute video to inspire some instrumental jamming.

There were some unknown factors.  We didn’t know which spaces we’d have for the sessions in each home and we knew that part of these first sessions would be figuring out how best to use the spaces we were given.  So we went with a plan, but ready to change things and make stuff up as we went along (our preferred approach to be honest … jamming.)

The first care home was set up in a medium sized room where everyone engaged with the short art presentation by Emma and the collage.  Playing instruments to the woodland walk film didn’t work in the way we had imagined – people jammed with each other which was great but there wasn’t much engagement with the film.  We learned that we had to explain the idea in a different way, to be far clearer in talking about how music is used in films and TV to evoke emotion and that we were going to make a piece of music together that accompanies the film to bring emotion to the piece.  After talking to the activity coordinators we decided to extend the area to work in next time.  In response to the ways service users were joining-in, for our next session, we plan to deliver one creative group session followed by smaller ‘creative huddles’ – to allow for more focused individual input from us and care staff.  Then at the end of the session, we can all get together and share what came out of the huddles.

Daily routines are strong and important in the care home.  And at the next care home we experienced the power of the afternoon tea break.  This was clearly an important part of the daily routine for both service users and staff – a ritual involving group discussion and fairly serious cakes.  We are keen for our sessions to become part of what’s happening in the home, but not to replace or overwhelm existing routines – so we embrace the tea ritual and figure-out how to work with it.  In this home we’ve decided to deliver a short initial session before tea break and offer some art books to browse while having tea, leaving the main group session for after tea.  We also decided to make use of the two rooms on offer, to have a drop-in for the remainder of the afternoon with one room focusing on music and the other for art activities.

There’s not always a dedicated space available and in the third care home we set up in the dining room with assurances from staff that the afternoon meal time would not get in the way of our session.  This worked well as it gave us a big space and allowed everyone to work together around one big table.  The group were very together and engaged from start to finish and staff were surprised, and pleased, that they were all still taking part two hours into the session, with energy to spare!  Here we arranged to come earlier next time and set up a drop in space before the main session – between 1 and 2pm, as this made sense in response to the home’s routines.

It’s a joy to work with old friends again.  Our fourth session was in Dundee in a specialist dementia unit where we’ve already delivered two projects alongside service users.  The group always has a playful vibe with participants keen to experiment and try things out with lots of laughter and good-natured teasing.  The residents engaged in ways that the staff had not seen before and soon we were creating great stuff together, including a high energy rhythm-focused jam session.

We’re loving how different the four collectives’ voices are already.  Even from the first sessions we can see different interests and energies emerging.  What a great start and we can’t wait for the next sessions.

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