Actors bring a boost for dementia patients in hospital

A study by Suffolk Artlink has found the effects of positive engagement with people living with deme

A study by Suffolk Artlink has found the effects of positive engagement with people living with dementia Picture: BEN JACKSON/SUFFOLK ARTLINK - Credit: BEN JACKSON

Having artists and actors visit hospital dementia wards drastically improves patients’ happiness and stress levels, it has been found.

The charity regularly sends artists into hospital wards to sing, act and chat Picture: BEN JACKSON/

The charity regularly sends artists into hospital wards to sing, act and chat Picture: BEN JACKSON/SUFFOLK ARTLINK - Credit: BEN JACKSON

A study, carried out by Suffolk Artlink, found introducing creative engagement into the routines of those living with dementia made drastic improvements to their wellbeing.

The charity has previously made headlines for sending clowns into children’s wards to boost spirits, and has also been sending forget-me-not visitors, who act as a family of playful characters to provide meaningful interaction, inspiration, distraction and company for patients.

Throughout the year-long study at Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals, positive improvements to mood and behaviour were seen to last beyond the duration of the visits – and spread to other patients around them.

It found 86% of participants demonstrated a positive change to their levels of happiness, with 82% seeing a decrease in anxiety and 74% showing positive changes to engagement with family, visitors and staff.

It is hoped the study will see similar schemes rolled out to other hospitals and care homes nationwi

It is hoped the study will see similar schemes rolled out to other hospitals and care homes nationwide Picture: IAN HULLAND/PAGEPIX - Credit: IAN HULLAND/PAGEPIX


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Claire Thompson, site director of nursing for East Suffolk & North Essex Foundation Trust, which operates Ipswich Hospital, said: “Seeing a person who may be anxious and withdrawn begin to relax, smile and sing along to a familiar song, or watching a person create a story with the artist around some simple props is incredibly moving.

“Not to mention the enormous benefits for the person’s sense of well-being, as we reduce the negative effect of hospitalisation.”

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Alex Casey, Suffolk Artlink co-director, said she hopes similar schemes will be rolled out to other hospitals and care homes across the country.

Ms Casey added: “Research shows that on average, people living with dementia in care spend only two minutes a day participating in meaningful engagement.

The study saw 86% of patients demonstrate a positive change to their happiness Picture: BEN JACKSON

The study saw 86% of patients demonstrate a positive change to their happiness Picture: BEN JACKSON/SUFFOLK ARTLINK - Credit: BEN JACKSON

“We are pleased to be able to evidence the impact of using artists to build confidence and resilience amongst patients and their families.

“These types of intervention clearly complement the role of medical and healthcare professionals and we are hopeful that this will make a case for many more programmes like the forget-me-not visitors in medical settings across the UK.”

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