Vancouver Coastal Health supports a number of organizations through one-time-only funding, including Health Promotion Project Grants. One of the recipients of a Health Promotion Project Grant, Deer Crossing the Art Farm, is supporting community members with lived experience of dementia to explore this through art, while working toward breaking down stigma around aging and dementia.
Raising the Curtain is an innovative collaboration between three partners: a community-engaged arts organization Deer Crossing the Art Farm; Lower Mainland academic institution Douglas College; and Good Samaritan Christiansen Village, a 140-bed "Campus of Care" on the Sunshine Coast. The project is focused primarily around a series of social interactions that explore the lived experience of dementia through the ideas, creativity and visions of those living it, providing them with an opportunity to communicate their experiences and self-advocate.
Since those living with cognitive impairment are more likely to positively experience an activity when it does not rely solely on previous knowledge, the focus of Raising the Curtain is on the creative process, rather than an outcome such as a painting or sculpture. This fosters connection between participants and their communities, and reduces stigma by engaging the community in difficult conversations through art. Working together, the core team of artists, researchers, health care staff, and participants explore the lived experience of dementia using multi-sensory, multi-disciplinary art practices combined with facilitated discussion and dialogue. The collaborative creative model asks everyone involved to disperse their skills throughout the group in a way that supports and enhances the contributions of the participants. The requirement for memory and the reliance on verbal skills alone is removed, which allows for more fluid and subtle ways of communicating and being. This leads to more interaction, conversation, and connection with other collaborators, which can increase wellbeing and decrease the social isolation commonly experienced with a dementia diagnosis. Through a health promotion approach that fosters engagement between people with dementia, caregivers, and the broader community, this project influences the societal perception of and relationship to aging, leading to increased social connectedness and wellbeing in communities on the Sunshine Coast.
Raising the Curtain exemplifies how community engaged arts and participatory research practices can provide an opportunity to learn and apply new skills during a time when a person might also be experiencing loss. This project aims to transform the perception of people living with dementia to one of value and contribution to the community. As the project has unfolded and the benefits of this approach became clear, the development of knowledge translation strategies have been initiated so that other long-term care (LTC) staff can employ these approaches, while collaborating with management in LTC facilities to support more innovative and arts-based approaches to care.
The initial phase of Raising the Curtain was completed with the support of a VCH One-Time-Only Health Promotion Grant.
Learn more about Deer Crossing the Art Farm's work here: https://deercrossingtheartfarm.org/