Dementia Awareness, Being Inclusive Case Study
Case Study Type:
Public Engagement Case Study
Sand dune system:
Case Study Subject:
Enagaging activities designed to be completed within a care home
About The Dune System Engagement Intervention
Dynamic Dunescapes created a set of ‘Scratch & Sniff’ postcards, designed in a vintage ‘50s travel / trips to the seaside’ style of illustration and using a coating which smelled like coconut sun cream when scratched. These were part of a suite of materials to be placed inside a ‘reminiscence box’, each of which would be used to stimulate feelings and evoke fond memories of times spent at the coast, based on handling artefacts; to encourage discussion and conversations. In particular, the reminiscence boxes were designed to be part of Dynamic Dunescapes’ partnership work with older communities, and dementia sufferers and their carers. They were designed in English, and in English and Welsh to ensure inclusivity when used as part of the project’s work in Wales.
What was the change you hoped to make?
The development phase of the Dynamic Dunescapes project identified a higher than average proportion of older people living in communities close to and associated with sand dune sites. It was also identified that individuals, families and groups found barriers to accessing these sites.
Original plans were to encourage and enable individuals and groups to work alongside People Engagement Officers and Site Managers to undertake site audits and develop face-to-face activities to increase participation, access and inclusion of these groups.
However, due to Covid-19, face-to-face events were suspended across the project. Elderly individuals and those in care homes were also identified as particularly ‘at risk’. On adjusting plans to work within the restrictions, postcards were self-addressed, stamped, and instead sent out to care homes. Residents could then still ‘scratch and sniff’ and enjoy an activity intended to bring up memories and start conversations. If they chose, they could then also write on the postcard a note, or perhaps a memory, which they would like to share from the session, and post it back to our Engagement Officers. Some engagement was, in this way, able to occur remotely, through care network support staff/care home staff.
Who did you work with?
The Engagement and Communications staff at Dynamic Dunescapes received professional guidance and training delivered by Dementia Adventure (specialists in outdoor provision for people living with dementia). Dementia Adventure also signposted the project to local and national support networks. The project also worked with local care homes and care networks.
What did you do and how?
Postcards were designed, printed and distributed to the Engagement Team. In Lincolnshire and Wales, the Engagement Team stamped and completed a return address on batches of postcards which were then distributed to care homes. Included was a letter of instruction, explaining the background of the Dynamic Dunescapes project and the intended use of the postcards to stimulate a reflective activity session with residents.
Awareness training was also provided to the engagement and communication team, and Dynamic Dunescapes site managers to better understand dementia and how to engage with and involve people living with dementia.
After a meeting with a care home forum in Sefton, activity sessions were booked with a 8 local care homes. During the sessions, residents could interact with the reminiscence box - feeling the sand, smelling the seaweed, listening to wave sounds on a speaker. Residents, depending on their ability, could also write their memories on the postcards or paint pictures. After a few sessions, more items were added including a swimming cap, a bucket and spade and also signing old seaside songs and rhymes.
Frequently, it was beneficial for the jars of sand and shells to be left, along with the post cards, at the care homes. This allowed activity coordinators to repeat the sessions at a later date.
It was also found that having a pre-session meeting with care home staff or activity coordinators was helpful. This way, sessions could be tailored to the group's ability and engagement level.
Highlight any issues/obstacles & how you overcame them?
Too many activities were offered during the first session and it felt rushed. In future sessions, the items in the reminiscence box were focussed on first. If there was time or the residents were interested, other activities were then offered.
It is different working in a care home, it’s a much slower pace and you don’t always get much feedback from the residents. However, that does not mean that they are not engaged or happy with what you are doing. The important thing to remember when working with those living with dementia is to not correct them if they identify something incorrectly. Correcting them can cause them distress.
A key message picked up from working closely with Dementia Adventure, is to build engagement activities around connecting with people’s feelings and emotion - not through facts and figures. Because of this, events focusing on memories and experiences in sand dunes were designed, over sessions which might focus on learning new things, for example, about species on the dunes, which would instead be better for an audience of citizen scientist or volunteer groups.
It is also important to engage in two-way dialogue. Reach out to the potential beneficiaries and participants to find out about and understand their interests, experiences, challenges and what barriers stop them accessing events, activities or sites, to best curate engagement activities.
It is beneficial to work with external expert individuals, groups or specialist support networks to co-design solutions.
Don’t make assumptions about the dementia and carers community or about any individual – it needs to be accepted that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, and everyone’s needs are different. “Once you’ve met one person with dementia, you’ve met one person with dementia” – quote from a dementia awareness ambassador.
How much did the intervention cost?
Cost of the reminiscence box, jars and the postcards - these will vary depending on supplier.
Did the intervention work?
Yes, the sessions produced lots of positive feedback and care home staff have continued to run the sessions with the materials left with them.
Research shows that an activity like this has a lasting effect on those living with dementia and can improve wellbeing for days after.
Most of the feedback came from the staff, with many comments on their surprise that a certain resident was engaging as they didn’t usually engage in activities.
Comments from residents include:
After smelling the seaweed “that’s new brighton that is!”
“We have to look after nature”
“I used to have a cap like this but it was red”
“Wonderful coast, restful, smell reminds me of sun tan lotion.”
“Definitely reminds me of summer and the smell of flowers. Also reminds me of peaches and the open air at the seaside on a nice hot day, which always makes me smile and very happy too. From one happy OAP!”
“Ice cream smell. Beautiful beach.”