Museums interested in working with people living with dementia might be interested in a dementia toolkit for small to medium sized museums, published by Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery.
It is a based on a research project it undertook with the Alzheimer’s Society in West Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University. The two-year project, which was a finalist in the 2015 Dementia Friendly Awards, looked at the effects of object handling on the wellbeing of people with early to mid-stage dementia. The research found that there were marked and measurable increases in wellbeing after people took part in the object handling.
The toolkit aims to support museums of all sizes that want to develop similar projects. It includes tips on training staff to be dementia friendly, choosing objects and evaluation.
Paul Camic, a professor of psychology and public health at Canterbury Christ Church University, said the Tunbridge Wells Museum project differs from a lot of other dementia work undertaken by museums because it is not focused on reminiscence. “Feedback I’ve had [from carers] is that they don’t just want reminiscence because it reminds the person of what they have lost”.
The research element of the project measured wellbeing before and after each museum object handling session using a five-point visual analogue scale accessing whether people felt: well; happy; interested; confident; and optimistic.
“The results showed statistically significant improvement in overall wellbeing across total wellbeing scores and on each subscale after the one hour sessions,” Camic said. “The sessions were also shown to be effective across genders and in early and mid-stages of dementia, with an overall higher level of wellbeing in early as opposed to mid-stage dementia.”