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By Debbie le Quesne

Challenging the ‘entertainment’ stereotypes in our homes

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I love art, it’s creative and varied expressions and the power it has to communicate across all language barriers.

West Midlands Care Association was recently approached by community interest company Creative Health, the independent Arts and Health organisation for the Black Country and the West Midlands, with a proposal that thrilled me.

Incorporated in February 2009 and formed by the Black Country Arts and Health Commissioning Partnership, the body, along with ourselves and other associations is bidding for an Arts Council grant to challenge the stereotypes of entertainment and activities delivered in care homes.

If the application is successful, a wide range of artistic expressions will be presented in residential settings, which according to the grant application will turn “the everyday into the extraordinary.”

The thrust of the project is to integrate artwork into care where professional artists, performers and residents are all encouraged to interact. Key to the project’s on-going success will be the training of activity coordinators in the homes.

Some 30,000 older people in residential care settings and more than 4,000 care workers would be targeted.

The “Living Room – Turning the Everyday into the Extraordinary” application explains: “We all pass time in our living room: somewhere to chat, undertake activities, rest, welcome visitors or watch television, together.

“Creative Health CIC and partners are proposing to use the idea of the family living room – where we feel at home, comfortable; surrounded by the people we love and also the everyday objects that mean something to us – to inspire a ‘Living Arts Room’ . . . a living, breathing space that stimulates warmth, emotion, sharing between residents. Families, providers, staff [and] artists.”

In tandem with the project would be an online presence, support mechanisms, exhibitions and a robust training programme for care managers, carers and activity co-ordinators.

I am delighted to be part of this bid and the ethos of the Living Room project ticks all the boxed for the association.

The first time I came in to contact with anything similar to this creative expression was when the association was working alongside the European Parliament two years ago to assess the creative synergy of care and art. I was so impressed with what I saw that when I was approached by Living Room I was happy to endorse the application.

It was interesting to see first-hand how, particularly in the Czech Republic. Arts in their many and varied types are central to culture and care for the elderly – especially those with Alzheimer’s. We discovered a similar model was also in place in Rome and Slovakia.

Living Room also aims to carry out a feasibility study into a Quality Mark for Arts in Care Homes. Together, residents, care staff and artists would benchmark arts activity in care homes.

Fingers crossed we will find favour with the application.

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