TAnDem: The arts and dementia

Researchers at an arts-focused doctoral training centre in the Midlands are boosting knowledge along with a good dose of joy.

The blue skies singing group

TAnDem is a training centre for PhD researchers that focuses on the arts and dementia.

Supported by Alzheimer’s Society and the universities of Nottingham and Worcester, TAnDem enables students to explore how interventions using arts could benefit people affected by dementia. An arts invention can involve anything from writing poetry and painting to singing and dancing.

While we don’t yet have a way to stop or slow down the progression of diseases that cause dementia, there is growing evidence that arts activities may improve the quality of life of people affected by the condition.

The work of TAnDem researchers will support the choices of people with dementia and their families, so they can be confident about which arts activities are right for them. Funding commissioners can also use this evidence to justify spending money on arts interventions.

Unique challenges

In September, TAnDem students held their third annual conference to showcase their work. They shared how they are tackling the unique challenges of studying the effectiveness of arts interventions.

Emily Cousins asked how we classify an arts intervention and Karen Gray looked at how we measure whether it is improving a person’s quality of life. Emma Broome explored how we put arts interventions into practice and make sure they are delivered properly, while Amy Veale asked which type of invention is most suitable at what time.

A scene from the play 'Silva Linings care Plan'

Research impact

Professor Justine Schneider, from the University of Nottingham, co-directs TAnDem with Professor Dawn Brooker from the University of Worcester.

‘The research of the students is being fast-tracked into practice.’
- Professor Justine Schneider, University of Nottingham

TAnDem students and supervisors have inspired local services, and people living with dementia are eager to attend arts-focused activity sessions and conferences.

A recent University of Nottingham ESRC Business Boost fund means the centre can develop a plan for a local, arts-led day centre for people with dementia. This will be informed by the University of Worcester’s experience of evaluating and disseminating the MeetingDem model of day care, which originated in the Netherlands.

Professor Sebastian Crutch, a Society-funded researcher at UCL (University College London), shared his research on posterior cortical atrophy.

Inspiring projects

TAnDem has been a hub for many inspiring dementia-related creative projects.

As fans of Singing for the Brain will tell you, group singing can be a very uplifting and positive experience.

Becky Dowson’s research investigates whether music therapy principles can be successfully used by someone who doesn’t have a music therapy qualification. She works with the Blue Skies singers, a choir of people affected by dementia, and shared how their lives have been improved by the joy of singing together. They then serenaded us and led a wonderful sing-along.

TAnDem team members also gave us a preview of the play ‘Silva Lining’s Care Plan’ that explores the relationship between a person with dementia and her carer.

Rumour has it that there’s an opera in the works, so watch this space!

Online courses on dementia and the arts

By collaborating with people from a number of disciplines, his team has created online courses to help people understand dementia and how the arts could help.

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Care and cure magazine: Winter 18

Care and cure is the research magazine of Alzheimer's Society is for anyone interested in dementia research.
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Care and cure is the research magazine of Alzheimer's Society is for anyone interested in dementia research.
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