Nottingham-Worcester Doctoral Training Centre

Evidence-based ways to live well with dementia through the creative arts

Lead investigators: Professor Justine Schneider and Professor Dawn Brooker
Professor Tom Dening, Dr Victoria Tischler, Professor Amanda Griffiths, Dr Simon Evans, Professor Elizabeth Peel, Professor Eleanor Bradley, Dr Karan Jutlla
Grant type:
Doctoral Training Centre
Scientific title: The Arts and Dementia (TAnDEM): Evidence-based ways to live well with dementia through the creative arts

What is a Doctoral Training Centre?

Alzheimer's Society Doctoral Training Centres (DTCs) aim to create a cluster of PhD students and clinical fellows working on themed area of dementia research. In addition to generating new knowledge on the theme, the DTCs will provide support and training to develop the next generation of Dementia Research Leaders.

Why did we fund this centre? Comments from our Research Network:

'Knowing first-hand how vital social support is for both carers and people with dementia and in particular the importance of music, this project is to be highly commended and encouraged.'

'It is a challenge in care homes to find new and innovative activities to stimulate and involve residents with dementia. So this research has potentially a positive impact for a range of care and support scenarios.'

'Research into best practice in services delivery is all too rare and, therefore, encouraging to see here.'

What do we already know?

The theme of the Nottingham-Worcester DTC is the role of creative arts in the care of people with dementia. We know that there is strong interest from people with dementia and their carers in arts-based activities but there has been limited research done to show the benefits that they can deliver. This evidence is needed to shape the development and delivery of arts interventions for people with dementia in community and residential care settings.

There is some evidence to show that activities like singing and painting can be stimulating and enjoyable for people with dementia. However, we need to understand more about which kinds of activities bring the most benefits, to whom and in which care settings.

What will this Doctoral Training Centre investigate?

This Doctoral Training Centre will support seven PhD students to build a strong evidence base for the use of creative arts in dementia, highlighting which types of activities bring the most benefit and at what stage in the dementia journey, helping to guide the development of future services. The students will also develop new research methods and tools that can be used by the dementia research community to assess other kinds of interventions such as brain training or exercise groups.

What will the students do?

The first two doctoral researchers will lay a foundation for the following studentships and for future research in this area. They will compile what we already know about the use of arts in dementia and develop a framework that allows different kinds of arts interventions to be compared. They will develop new research methods to evaluate the benefits of this kind of intervention and also find ways of measuring outcomes that are meaningful for people with dementia and their carers.

Building on this foundation work, the following doctoral researchers will work closely with people with dementia, carers and artists to explore individual differences in the response to a range of arts interventions encompassing theatre, film, puppetry, singing, painting, as well as visiting art galleries. One student will use this research to develop a decision-making tool to help select the most appropriate activity based on a person's individual situation. Another student will evaluate a programme of arts experiences called 'Imagine' that is being introduced to 16 care homes across Nottingham City.

How will this benefit people affected by dementia?

The evidence generated by this research will be used to underpin the development of high-quality arts interventions for people with dementia, which will enhance their care. Families and care staff will also benefit as it will lead to activities that are more tailored to the needs of the people they care for. 

The Universities of Nottingham and Worcester have strong links with the NHS and with care home providers so any knowledge created can quickly be used to improve the arts services already on offer. In the long-term, it is expected that the work of this Doctoral Training Centre will lead to an increase in the quality and variety of arts-based services available to people with dementia across the UK.

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