It was truly our pleasure to deliver a Dance for Dementia and the Frail and Elderly project at Southmead Hospital over the course of six weeks earlier this year, before the pandemic struck. Made to feel so welcome by patients, staff and visitors alike, we were delighted at how the weekly playful dance sessions took everyone – including us – by surprise.
Initially we had planned to provide a 45-minute session in the dining room which patients could attend. We soon we realised, however, that our time would be better spent moving around the six bays in each ward at Elgar House, where the frail and elderly are cared for.
Back to our roots
What was lovely was that this tweak of the project turned it into something which tapped into the very essence of our work. Bringing some uplifting energy into each bay, we spread a little magic for a short period of time before leaving some of that positive uplift behind us when we moved on. Just like we do in our happenings!
It completely surpassed our expectations and we just want to shout about this amazing project.
Dance for Dementia
Funded by the Bristol Ageing Better Community Kick Start Fund, the aim of the sessions was to create an opportunity for patients to take part in an activity that improves their physical and psychological wellbeing.
Armed with feathers on sticks, Franklin balls and cut-out cardboard hearts, we went round each bay and delivered a session comprising of three pieces of music.
There is mounting research and evidence of the physical and emotional benefits that dance has for people living with Dementia.
Being involved in a creative and expressive activity such as dance helps create meaningful and joyful interactions that are non-verbal, something which is vitally important for people living with Dementia.
And because our movement work doesn’t come from a medical background but an expressive one, it has so much potential.
Importantly for the patients, we are non-medical and don’t wear uniforms. “Patients don’t see what you do as exercise,” said Elgar House Matron Bev Davies. “It’s hard to create that clinically. You get more out of them than they realise.”
It was wonderful every week, not just to see patients’ faces light up and their bodies express themselves, but to engage those patients who seemed unlikely to due to agitation – or even sheer antagonism and bloody mindedness! During one session a woman who appeared to be asleep started to sing along to the music. We were told earlier in the day she had been agitated and the staff were surprised to see her take part.
What we didn’t expect was how engaged staff and visitors would also be.
Nothing like it
“There’s nothing like it,” said. Elgar house Ward Manager Marianne Evans. “Staff that we never thought would get involved, did.”
And visitors were engaged too. “I think it’s really magical what you are doing,” said one. “We need this every day,” added another.
As for us, we loved the project. We were made to feel so welcome and there were so many moments of magic. This project has enabled us to further develop our growing reputation as an Inclusive Community Dance Company delivering work that helps reduce isolation and loneliness in people and their communities.
The project may be over but we really hope this is just the beginning. We need more funding to set up more projects and continue with this vital work.
“It’s not a case of we’d like you here,” summed up Bev Davies. “We need you here!”